Sunday, 27 February 2011

Dawn chorus

After a harsh winter it is wonderful to be woken by the blackbirds mellow spring song.  How many people hear it now the outside world is muffled by double glazed windows?  They may keep in warmth and unwanted sounds out but they also cut us off from the sounds of nature. 

Early this morning I  Iwent out walking with Pops, my dog,  I saw blackbirds busy finding nest material.  I heard robins dueling with song for territory and the busy chatter of sparrows.  But it is turning colder again so there was no sign of  the Brimstone butterfly I had seen last week flying dozily along the lane  ..

We walked down to my allotment and just as we arrived a kestrel was  hovering stationary above the  plot;  suddenly  it  swooped down and caught a mouse.   Then  it  perched on a nearby fence to eat it.   I was too slow to get my own camera out, but here is  superb picture by Nigel Blake of a kestrel's stationary flight.  A beautiful bird and powerful hunter a kestrel's  eyesight is so keen it can  see and catch a beetle from 50 metres away.

Kestrels are sometimes mobbed by other birds, I have seen them being attacked by a flock of starlings.  Last week I saw a Kestrel being mobbed by three seagulls.  The screams and shrieks of the seagulls as they chased the kestrel  drew the attention of us all.  It was amazing to watch the birds wheel and dive on the kestrel.  The kestrel used its flying skills to plummet towards the ground and then shoot skyward. The seagulls could not match the agility of the Kestrel in the air and it  eventually escaped.

Today all the birds around my plot were quiet until the kestrel moved away. .A  robin soon began to sing as I dug  holes in the beds to plant two new trees.   One is a victoria plum Tree the other is a crab apple tree.  I began  digging down to put in the plum tree  but I had hardly gone more than a spit (a spades depth) before I hit stone and clay. 

The allotments at Eastney and Milton are on the site of  Arundel to Portsmouth Canal.  It was built in 1823 by the  Portsmouth & Arundel Navigation company it didn't make money.  It was abandoned in 1855. The allotments are now on the canal site. Part of my allotment is on the what was the tow path so there is a core of clay and stone quite near the surface of my beds.  This was what I had hit. 

I had to wheel barrow compost and manure to add depth to the bed  before  I could plant and stake the tree.  The Robin appreciated the manure heap being turned over and was soon busy investigating the bugs and worms that had been uncovered.  Robins are fearless birds he, or she, sat on a willow whip inches from where I was working The crab tree I planted at the bottom of my plot.   This end of my plot  was part of the canal bed and it has more depth to the soil so the work was easier.

It was then time to put on the kettle for a cup of tea.  It  was really lovely to sit by my shed  on a beautiful February day, my dog along side me,and be so close to the sea and nature. Oh!  That does sound like a cliche!  But hey it is  one I am happy to live.  

Friday, 11 February 2011

Gog and Magog - A tall story

Long ago in the time when giant lived  in this world  twins were born to Noah's granddaughter Miriam.   They were named Gog and Magog.  The twins were bewitchingly  handsome and everyone who saw them fell in love with them.  They were given gifts, treats, hugs everything they demanded.  As they became toddlers everyone laughed at their naughty ways and forgave them the spilt churn of milk the biscuits stolen from the table. No one could say no to them, or, tell them off.  They were indulged and spoilt.

Gog and Magog were so self contained  they cared not a jot for anyone else and they  became more and more wayward .  The love people felt towards them began  to turn to dislike and even hatred. Their games and tricks became spiteful.   Even Miriam was ashamed of them.  The grumblings in the village grew and grew.

"Little devils"
"just kicked over all the milk pails"
"They dragged my washing into the mud and then knocked me down"

The elders of the giants went to Noah  to ask him to intervene to stop the twins.  However Gog and Magog were  too afraid to face their Grandfather's wrath,  so they ran away never to be seen again.  Sometimes rumours would reached the village about twins'  monstrous ways. Time passed and  the time of the giants was at an end and  Noah called them home to the otherworld. Only Miriam and their father spared a thought for Gog and Magog as they crossed over.

Gog and Magog didn't spare a thought for them or anyone. The twins roamed far and wide.  They would pull the wings off birds for fun.  Gog and Magog had become horrid bullies and they had terrible tempers.  When crossed the two Giants  would rip trees and rocks from the earth and fling  these missals at whatever or whoever, had sparked their rage.
Gog and Magog  left Israel and wandered through Persia, Asia  and finally into the the land we now call Europe. One day while playing together the Giants came upon to a foul smelling  caustic red mud lake surrounded by a high dam.   Just for sport they kicked down dam.  The sludge  spilled into the valley destroying all living things in its path and killed some local villagers.  The land became barren and bare for years to come.

The clans and tribes forgetting their feuds  joined together to drive the Giants  out of Europe's territory.   By sheer numbers and rage the warriors drove Gog and Magog into the sea.   Afraid they might return the priests sent watcher to follow them.

The twins  eventually reached the land of the Fororians.   A fierce bandit race whose king Balore was  savage and merciless.  He had  only one huge eye which was so powerful  one glance from it was enough to kill an enemy.  Gog and Magog fitted in really well in this band of vicious bandits and  had many jakes and adventures.  But even here the twins went too far and they heard  Balore's horrendous growl,

"Gog and Magog I' ll see you!"

Gog and Magog knowing very well what that meant stole away across sea. 

Their wandering and havoc continued.  Finally they reached Albion, or Britain as some know it..  They rampaged their way across country towards the Isle of Avalon.   Leaving  dreadful destruction behind. They amused  themselves at night by ripping off the roofs of dwellings and tossing the humans out of bed.  Sometimes they sent them flying for miles into mires and dung heaps. They would  Howl with laughter, filling  with terror every person who heard it.

When they reached Avalon they munched their way through the apple orchards    Until that fateful day when they entered an orchard and stuffed their mouths full of apples as usual. Crunch they bit into the apples.  With bellows of disgust they spate them out. The apples were sour cider apples. Gog and Magog in a tantrum ripped  out all the trees and trampled them into splinters. Now after this day of great of  destruction they were tired and thirsty.  They kicked open the doors of  a  barn.   To their delight it was full of  full of scrumpy cider.  The twins drank every barrels then they slumped into a stupor.

The watchers called the  Avalon tribes and clans together. While Gog and Magog slept they were tied up tightly. The Twins opened bleary eyes to see a angry crowd of human surrounding them.In their befuddled state they could not understand at first why they could not move.  The tribes had sent for the Druids.  Now they had captured the Twins they did not know what to do with them. There were many suggestions on how to kill them and they fell to arguing amongst themselves.  Bored some of the tribesmen  began to thrust spears into the the twins.

"Ouch!" roared  Gog.
"Hey" howled Magog.

Some of the people started to run away.  They tripped over the others who were advancing.  Gog and Magog used the confusion and their mighty strength to break free.  Drunkenly the twins staggered off.  The tribes chased after them with their slings and spears.  A huge rock hit Gog on the head and made him feel dizzy.   They ran through some Stones some of which they kicked over out of spite.  Then they were running up a long avenue of oaks they were being to slow down. Gog was feeling ill.  He was still drunk, and the rock had almost knocked him out. He had also twisted his knee.  A spear  had sunk deep into  Magog 's shoulder.  Blood pumped out of the wound as  they ran. They stumbled on.  They came to end of the Avenue of oaks and in front of them was a great Tor.  Gog gasped,

"I can't go on"

"We'll rest here."said Magog.

The Giants slumped  behind two great oaks. 

Gog peeped out and saw not a hordes of tribesmen  pursuing  them but one woman.  She was tall with flowing dark hair she was dressed in white  with an oak wand in her hand.  She was walking calmly up the avenue.

The  woman was the powerful Druidess Creirwy. who saw where they had hidden.  She called their names quietly and the twins step out in front of the oaks facing her.  Creirwy smiled at them,  raised her wand and  put of spell of enchantment on the two giants.  She bound  them  with  magic to the trees until the life in the oaks expired.   Gog and Magog could do no more  mischief.  The Druidess planted a seed of loving compassion in each of their heart spaces. To shield the giants from the anger of the tribes who wanted to kill them in many horrid ways, the wise seer and Druidess put a spell on the area to protect the oaks from harm. 

Gog and Magog fell asleep for hundreds of years.  The avenue of trees was chopped down at the beginning of the 19th century  The farmer did not see the mystery and beauty of  ancient trees.  He  saw only a cash crop that would build him an impressive farm house.    The  woodsmen feeling the magic around the last two oaks refused to fell them. So the oaks remain to this day.

They say that at night the fairies dance and tumbled amongst the branches and Gog and Magog  can be seen dreamily jigging in time to the music, but if anyone trespasses too near all they will see is fungi growing on the dead wood.  Beware sleep will come hard for anyone disturbing the fairies merriment!  

Gog and Magog slept on unaware that the Tor above them was a magical spot and that people came down Tyrel lane to see the last two oaks of the once mighty avenue. When they awoke a new age had dawned.  Humans in their bright  colourful clothes would come in groups, or alone, playing music, singing chanting.  They come at Beltane  and other festivals that mark the season and circle of the year. They tie  ribbons and hide crystals and precious jewels in the crevices of the oaks.    They tell Gog and Magog their secrets their hopes and dream. They hug the trees and send love to them.  Sometimes in the oaks they saw a face, a fleeting shadow but then it was gone.

William came from America  and brought Reiki healers from all over the world to this place of magic.  They have been given the gift of  the universal energy in the circle of Stonehenge.  They meditate and chant and sit in silence in front of the venerable oak trees,  They touched and hug Gog and Magog with healing hands.

If you visit the oaks you will find they are teaming with life day and night.   In spring and summer you will hear the song of birds and chirps from the fledglings in the nest  safe in the strong branches of Gog or Magog.  Squirrels chase up and down the oaks and hide away in it  acorns only to forget  in winter where they put them.  The harvest mouse, who has a bigger brain  than squirrels and  far more cunning, reaps the benefits of  their work in winter. 

One hot stifling summer night a tiny bat fell exhausted and dehydrated into Magog's branches and feebly crept in one of the boles in the heart of the Oak.  Here the dying creature found a cool shelter and a tiny pool of crystal clear healing water which saved his life.   Every year the bat would return and bring his offspring to Magog and the generations of bats that followed still come with their youngsters.

Gog and Magog have, it is said, lived for two  thousand years as oaks.  Over the year the sap eventually became slower to rise.   A branch  here died and there one fell away. The faces that some people glimpse in the oaks  are now very gnarled. The great boles that have formed in the ancients heart wood give shelter to many creatures, and insects such as the click beetles, hover flies, bumble bees. In their roots a badger  has formed its set.  Foxes come to eat the acorns and  blackberries that form a protective hedge around Gog and Magog. 

That the oaks are so near death has caused the brightly coloured visitors to cry and hug them even harder give them love and healing.  But death is inevitable and the oaks binding Gog is now only an empty shell.  Magog holds onto life struggling to stay with the creatures who need the shelter of her heart space of oak.   Last year  on Magog's oak only one twisted branch held a leaf .  Gog free now slips  quietly across the landscape but always comes back to Magog. He will not leave on the journey to the otherworld without Magog.  He  waits for his precious twin and  Gog may still wait today.  Perhaps in the shadows you will see him leaning against Magog's Oaks. When Magog has breathed that last breath they can cross the rainbow bridge to join the other giants .  They have nurtured and grown the seed of love and compassion the Druidess, Creirwy gave them.  Every year Creirwy greets the Twins at the solstices .  She has had many transformations over the year and is today named  Phillip.

With blessings

Merry Rambler

first draft
Hazel Tree Story Teller

Sunday, 6 February 2011


Today was sunny and mild and I had a tranquil morning cutting my willow whips which form a fedge* along one edge of my allotment.  Some of the stems were eight or nine foot high (3 metres) and had  grown straight skyward others have branched out at ground level, some at chest high.  The willow  is unusual  in that cuttings can be placed in the ground even upside down and they will grow. The colours of the new growth are a beautiful fresh yellow, green or lovely copper brown and the buds are swelling ready to burst into flower and leaf. 

honey bee on a willow flower
The willows catkins appear early in spring before the leaves buds begin to unfold.  The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract the bees as they rouse from winter hibernation. On a sunny days the buzz of hungry bees create a lovely harmony as they begin collecting pollen to prepare for new broods of grubs.  It is one of the reason I planted willow whips.
I love the gentle buzzing of bees in the spring and summer and the glimpse of their bright stripped bottoms as the forage deep inside a flower.  Some species of these beautiful creatures are threatened by extinction including one of the most charming  the bumble bees.

The willow has many medicinal properties.The Ovates of the Druids in ancient times knew willow as a healer of great power. Even today Its bark is a source of salycic acid, which is the main ingredient in aspirin. A cup of willow-bark tea helps ease pain, fever, rheumatism.  An infusion of the leaves can be used as a digestive tonic and treatment for diarrhoea and dysentery. By making a split in the bark "water" gathered from flowering willows is:
 "good for dimness of sight or films that grow over the eyes."
Culpeppers' Herbal
Another reason for choosing to plant willows is because of the use willow in magic mystery. Through the ages Druids have used willow wands in rituals and ceremonies.  Willows can facilitate meditation and is thought to bring a sense of deep connection with the divine.  It is believed that Willow will assist clairvoyance, intuition, and journeying.   I like the idea that you  can tell you secrets to willow and it will keep them safe.

My willow is Salix Viminalis.  I planted two rows  in January 2010.  The whips are very beautiful full of movement.  In the breeze they create a delightful whispering and rustling.  They are always full of insects and birds.  My hope is that this summer I will see a willow warbler perched on one of the whips. 

My living fence has beauty, mystery and is wonderful habitat for many varied  insects and birds.  In the week  of Imbolc,or Candlemas the herald of spring  and hope what better way to spend time than working with and thinking about willow.

*fedge is a living fence

With blessing 

The Merry Rambler