J Peggy Taylor
Nature has a keen eye for colour and she greets us in every season with so many different colour contrasts.
Pink and yellow
In our valley we are treated to some colourful Winter sunrises when the sky is aglow with amazing pinks and yellows.
Yellow and green
It was mid-February this year when we spotted the glorious golden globes of the Winter Aconites Eranthis hyemalis as we took a woodland walk one sunny afternoon. I always look forward to seeing these flowers blooming for they bring with them the promise that Spring is not far off.
Yellow and blue
Gorse is a rather prickly shrub that grows widely in wild places in our area. Its yellow pea-type flowers begin to bloom from late January bringing some welcome brightness in our hedges and woods, replacing the browns of Winter.
Purple and orange
Like many people, we grow a pot or two of crocuses in our back yard. When our purple crocuses bloom, I know that Winter really is past and Spring is here to stay. The bright orange stamens seem to glow when the Spring sunshine catches them.
Purple and green
Our family has spent many happy hours focusing on creatures on Common Knapweed – literally! This beautiful purple flower of Summer is one of my favourite colours and the greens of the grass and foliage create a perfect backdrop.
Orange and purple
Colourful butterflies are another delight of Summer. The orange of this Comma butterfly contrasts well against the purple thistles.
Red-orange and green
As the Summer draws to a close, the hedgerows fill up with Autumn fruits. Red berries against green foliage are a certain reminder that it is time to stock up the larder with these juicy fruits, full of captured Summer sunshine, to see us through the dark days of Winter. We also make sure we leave plenty for the birds and beasties.
Do take a look at the ‘Contrasting Colors’ others have chosen for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.
J Peggy Taylor
To help kindle our creative fires for the ‘Water and Winter’ theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, Cee gave this prompt :
“The Water energy is a strong generative force centered in the lower belly. When the Kidney Qi is strong, a person is fearless, determined, and can endure many hardships in pursuit of their goals. Persevering by will power is characteristic of those with strong Kidney Qi. The color for water is blue.”
The substance we know as ‘water’ is a crucial part of life here on Planet Earth. Water truly is a ‘strong generative force’ and it plays such a significant part in the cycle of the seasons. Thinking about the seasons always leads me to think about the natural world and its continual battle for life. In browsing through my archives to choose images for my challenge entry this week I was very much reminded of the hardships nature must endure just to survive, especially during the cold season of Winter. I was also struck by how different our ‘normal’ environments can appear when wrapped in Winter snow.
This group of oak trees stood out against the dark green pines beyond. I noticed the way the snow had clothed the main branches of the trees. It looked as if the branches had been painted white. The thinner oak twigs retained their red-brown colour and contrasted with both the oaks’ snow-white branches and the darkness of the tall pines.
We often walk by this coppiced hazel. As with the oaks above, the snow has clung to the leafless twigs and branches, giving it a decorated effect. I love the way the snow highlights the underlying shape of this tree.
There is a convenient bench just by this gate, on which woodland visitors may linger and look out across the valley. As you can see, this was not a day for sitting or indeed for lingering too long either. It was very cold, but the slowly setting Winter sun gleamed so beautifully across the snow-covered fields.
This was the first of many snowfalls that Winter. The snow fell so thickly and so quickly. I took this photograph from our front door at around 4.30pm, during a brief interlude when the snow eased off a little. There was this eerie blue-grey light as we looked out eastwards towards the woods. It is very unusual for us to have snow on this scale even before November is out.
Hopefully our Winter this year will not be too harsh.
J Peggy Taylor
We seem to have spun through January and reached February already in 2014. I am relieved to say in our northern valley, apart from periodic bouts of strong winds and gales, we have not suffered with the extreme weather conditions that are being experienced elsewhere in the UK.
Walking out in our local countryside in mild winter sunshine on both days of this weekend I couldn’t help thinking about the people of Somerset and others who are still suffering flooding – a month on – with the weather forecast again offering them little in the way of respite.
In recent winters we’ve had snow that lasted for weeks but this year on the first weekend in February, muddy paths and busy burns were the only signs of winter weather we encountered. The sunshine was very pleasant and we remarked on it with other walkers we met along the way.
Whilst I would say our winter has been relatively mild, we were still very surprised on Saturday when within a short stretch of a favourite woodland path we spotted Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) in three different stages of growth.
The first example was particularly remarkable as it was not brown and broken as you’d expect in late winter, but green with newly-formed seed pods! We normally see it at that stage in August not February!
A little further on, along the stretch of path where summer finds us spotting curious insect-life, some brown stems of last summer’s Hogweed were still standing proud above the remains of other plants and grasses. I love the way the winter light reflects from their starry seedless heads. These old stalks still have beauty to offer yet.
Across the path in the lea of the towering mature pine trees we saw our third state of Hogweed. These ones were in full autumn glory, their heads sporting a full complement of perfectly formed seeds – again, a beautiful sight with the morning sun catching them as they danced in the light breeze.
As we retraced our steps homeward we stopped by the burn to seek out any signs of early spring flowers. No Dog’s Mercury or Wood Sorrel yet, but the very-small-flower-with-the-very-long-name was looking promising by the waters-edge. I’m talking about Opposite-Leaved Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium)- which, as you can see, is indeed a very long name for so small a plant. The tiny golden flowers were ready in their buds so I’m sure will appear very soon.
Sunday brought another chance for a sunny walk under azure blue skies. Today’s walk was in a different direction, along the valley side on an old mineral line before dropping into another woodland below. The spring signs I was seeking here were Blackthorn blossom, Gorse, Broom and Primroses. I found two out of four, so wasn’t disappointed.
The Blackthorn buds are filling up but none had burst forth yet. Both Gorse and Broom grow along the old railway line. I thought the Gorse looked particularly beautiful against the amazing blue of the sky.
The birch trees with their white trunks and purple twigs also caught my eye as I walked along.
There was lots of mud in the wood … but no sign of primroses today. Still, there’s plenty of time for them yet.
J Peggy Taylor
There’s nothing quite like a woodland walk in winter. I love the woods at all times of year, but in winter I think woodland has its own special magic.
There’s always plenty to watch out for as we wander along – and I do mean ‘wander’. Wandering allows plenty of time to absorb the atmosphere and enjoy the intricacies of the natural world.
Leafless trees stand proud in their stark winter beauty. We notice the different colours of the twigs and branches – some purple, some orange, some green … and some are actually brown. The golden winter sun adds its own glow, and we see pink reflections on a group of white birch trunks cast from the red larch twigs 40 feet above us.
We notice and name the numerous species of conifer trees as we pass along another path. I remind my son how to distinguish between Scots and Corsican Pine by counting the needles in each tuft.
We see the recent winter rain has turned a normally-languid-stream into a torrent, gushing on its busy way through the culvert under the road.
The next path we take is a real woodland path, carpeted with last year’s leaves and punctuated at frequent intervals by another winter woodland favourite of mine … mud! Mud, mud, glorious mud! We squelch through some patches but decide to edge around the larger swamps where the ooze looks to be of a more dubious depth.
When we reach the pond, it looks oddly flat without its reeds, rushes and waterside flowers. We spot a few pond snails but most of the pond’s inhabitants will be resting safely in the silt at the bottom.
We noticed a number of trees with broken limbs as we walked today. The weather has certainly reminded us of its power this winter – wind and water have both caused a fair amount of damage and misery here in the UK. We’ve been lucky and have got off fairly lightly up here in the hills.
Our homeward wander takes us along one of our regular and well-known paths. We watch the squirrels chasing through the undergrowth before darting suddenly up another tree. One sits motionless by an oak tree only a few metres away from us. We watch, the squirrel sits – we move on first.
Again we enjoy the beautiful golden winter sunshine … and more mud! The puddles in the railway cutting are full of blue sky and pink clouds overlaid with dark reflections of the winter trees.
Then, wending our way homeward, we spot a promise of Spring – flowering alder catkins. My son took this quick shot of the catkins against the setting sun – beautiful.