Saturday, 5 July 2008

A Lovely Summer’s Day

In between the rain showers and near gale force winds, it's finally starting to feel like Summer.

We spent today at the Smallholders Show at Ardingly, Sussex. No rain by the time we arrived, it was dry and sunny, if a little breezy. Only a couple of goats due to BT restrictions, but there were plenty of other attractions. Best of all was the Working Horses Trust, which promotes the keeping of Heavy Horse breeds, and encourages owners to use them for the purposes they were bred for. They had three working pairs at the show - Ardennes who were pulling a carriage giving rides round the show, Suffolks who took part in an arena display, along with a pair of Comtois horses - never seen them before - stunning animals. Bought a few essentials, like a sharpening stone and cheeses, and found on wonderful old book on horse racing, with photos of some of the great horses of the late 1800's.

At the end of the show, we sat in the van and ate the picnic we'd packed. As we sat quietly, we heard the thunder of hooves, and looked out to see the girls from WHT riding the Suffolks and Comtois round the perimeter of the showground. Magnificent horses, and at the gallop, manes and tails flying in the wind, amazing

We had orignally intended to drive down to Ashdown Forest and hang around until dusk in the hope of hearing or seeing Nightjars, but changed our mind. Instead we took the back roads from Ardingly to Box Hill, before reluctantly joining the M25 for home. We found some amazing places in that drive - Ardingly reservoir is hidden away among the Beech woods, and at the western end there are cottages round the shoreline - more like something you'd expect to see on the continent than at the far reaches of the commuter belt. Brockham is a village that sits below Box Hill, with chocolate box cottages around a vast village green. All that it lacks to make it the perfect English village is John Nettles and a series of eccentric murders. Take away the modern cars and the scene could have been from any time since the 1920's - right down to vegetable plots in the front gardens. There's something about the sight of runner bean wigwams and cabbages rubbing shoulders with Hollyhocks by the front door that to me indicate someone free of the stresses of modern life.

Which is this week's convoluted method of bring me to the instructions in the Wartime Weekend Gardener for the second week of July - sow more turnips and carrots. I guess that by now the general maintenance - weeding, watering and starting to harvest - are taking up plenty of time.

But with the erratic weather we've had until now, there's still a little time to catch up and sow some thing, notably beans. Hopefully, now that Wimbledon, Glastonbury and all the other events that invite the rain are over, we should have fair weather from now until at least mid-September.

Real gardeners don't have Summer holidays - there's just too much to do.

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