Shorter Days – October 2021

This is the time between seasons. As the evenings draw in, it gives us the impression of shorter days. This illusion often takes us by surprise and tricks us into summer time expectations. Unusually this autumn, those expectations were reinforced by the UK experiencing one of the warmest and sunniest Septembers on record. We are now in October and despite a noticeable chill in the mornings and evenings, those glorious and benign sunlit days continue, especially where I live in the south of England.

It seems that suddenly the sun slips away to rest leaving a marked nip in the air and sending us reaching for our jackets and warmer clothes.

I always find this an exciting time of year as the trees put on a new and vibrant set of clothes. Reds, oranges, yellows all join in the display. This year, because the heavy rain we had earlier left the soil moist, this splendid spectacle has been delayed. Each year, with my camera at the ready, I wander through woods surrounded by the towering beeches, oaks - all guardians of the wood, looking for the many mushrooms hiding under the fallen leaves or rotten wood, and all the other treasures with which nature provides us. The picture of acers below was taken by my sister Amanda Spence at Winkworth Arboretum, near Godalming, Surrey.

Looking at this image, it is hard to imagine and understand what is happening in the outside world all around us. Thankfully climate change is high on the agenda and I am praying that something concrete may come out of the Cop26 meeting in Glasgow at the end of this month. I have the feeling that we are all getting tired of talk without much action.

I know I am not alone in this dismay. When visiting Cardiff to open the Welsh parliament this week our Queen was overheard to say to her daughter in law, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and the presiding officer Elin Jones: “I’ve been hearing all about COP … I still don’t know who’s coming.”

On the recording, parts of which are inaudible, the queen also appears to say it is “irritating” when “they talk, but they don’t do.”

The Queen, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, along with many world leaders will be attending the conference. This is an opportunity for real and well considered action. This action is needed for future generations and the many young people who are growing up really concerned and actively showing an interest and wanting to do something concrete about the current situation.

Earlier in the week, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, when speaking at the Youth4Climate conference in Milan, mocked the world leaders for their lack of action in doing nothing but ‘blah, blah, blah'.

How difficult it was for many people during the three lockdowns, but I do believe that they may have produced an unexpected and important wake-up call. For the first time, due to the lockdowns, many more people have become aware of the wildlife all around them and suddenly brought to mind the perilous situation in which many species are close to extinction or desperately striving to exist. The destruction of our precious Brazilian rainforests where many species of wild life once existed, in order to grow more and more palm oil for our greedy and ignorant consumption, seems to be ignored. If it continues it will cause the rapid disruption of our planet, accelerating the climate change it brings with it. We all need to start thinking seriously on a macro level. Perhaps just to start by not buying any goods containing palm oil would be a start.
Google tells us “Unbelievably, more than 200,000 acres of rainforest are burned every day. That is more than 150 acres lost every minute of every day, and 78 million acres lost every year! More than 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest is already gone, and much more is severely threatened as the destruction continues.”

The link below will show you how the world’s rain forests are being destroyed.
On a happier note, my sister and I give each other the choice of doing something or visiting somewhere of interest on our respective birthdays.

This time it was my sister’s choice, as her birthday was last month. Fortunately we both have very similar interests and this year she chose Ham House, near Richmond, London (which I had been hoping to visit). It was a balmy September day and we were in no hurry.

As we reached Ham House we drove through the village, passing some really splendidly large Queen Anne and classical Georgian houses. The village of Ham was first recorded around 1150 and the name was taken from the Old English hamm, which in this instance meant ‘land in a river bend’. Henry V acquired the manor of Hamme Upkyngeston in 1415, thus bringing the village into a closer relationship with the royal estate at Richmond upon Thames.

“Built in 1610 for Sir Thomas Vavasour, knight marshal to James VI and I. Said to present more aspects of 17th-century life than any other house in the country, it was the meeting place of the Cabal, Charles II’s leading advisers between 1667 and 1673. “

Situated close to the river Thames in Ham, south of Richmond, it seems to be placed in a rural village and not in the London Borough of Richmond a few miles away.

When originally built, Ham House would have been surrounded by meadows.

“From the 1870s the farms began to convert to market gardening, cultivating fruit, beans and cabbages. Near the end of the 19th century, the Dysarts began to sell their land for development and villas were built for the upper middle classes.

“The council built some ‘homes for heroes’ after the First World War, and gravel and grit extraction created large pits - which have since been filled. In 1922–3 the extraction company constructed a lock and a dock, where the Thames Young Mariners are now based.

Ham polo club was founded in 1926. Polo ceased at Hurlingham and Barn Elms in 1939 and at Roehampton in 1955, so Ham is now the only place in Greater London where the game is played.”

Ham House

We had all day to wander and this we did, starting with the garden as rain was forecast for later. The garden had fallen into disrepair until the National Trust took over the estate in 1948 and gradually set about bringing the garden back to its original glorious formal state. Long avenues down which one would parade with small paths leading off, allows one to capture glimpses of wonderfully enticing vistas.

Part of the garden has been laid out as the Union Jack but this would only be visible if seen from above. However the layout is clearly visible from this ground plan.

Resting house

The Cherry Garden, presided over by the statue of Bacchus

There were also enticing gaps cut out at regular places in the yew hedge surrounding the garden, though which one could catch a glimpse of the garden beyond.

A glimpse through the yew hedge.

The Hornbeam Tunnel

This is a garden of such peaceful excitement and inspiration that if I lived closer it would become a place to visit regularly; a place of magic, as excitement after excitement unfolds before one’s eyes as first one wanders down one path and then the next and the next; a place where dreams drift in and out and all woes and troubles disappear for just a precious moment.

The interior of Ham House was no less inspiring. It was created by William Murray. As a child he was educated with Charles 1. His daughter Elizabeth married the Earl of Lauderdale and they set about filling the house with treasures from around the world. Each generation added to its splendour.
As we walked round we both felt the sense of a family house. Despite its grandeur, it seemed more a used family home than a stately house. Ham House is known for its fine collection of cabinets - one of the most important in the country. Cabinets despite having been used in Roman times, in the 17th century they became more important and were an indication of wealth. They were brought to Ham House from all over the world, from countries such as China, Japan and Holland. The craftsmanship is of the very finest order. They are mainly kept closed in order to preserve the magnificent colours of the carved interiors and protect the original hinges.
I felt a sense of happiness and permanence as we wandered around, surrounded by family portraits by famous artists such as Peter Lely. Indeed on chatting to one of the guides, this was confirmed as the Tollemach and Dysart families, and descendants of the Murrays, often come and visit.

Tired and very happy, we drove home, comparing notes of our visit.

My calendar has arrived!!

It is hard to believe that Christmas is not so far away. This has been drawn to my attention by the arrival of my 2022 calendar. A great friend helped me deal with almost 100 back orders. A great sense of relief as the last was safely tucked into its envelope. Taking them all to the Post Office the next day is always a bit of a worry, as laden with bags full of calendars to go all over the world means that the queue of people standing behind me grows longer and longer! Great apologies!

Having posted the backlog, I try to do the orders every day and then take them down to the Post Office on the same day if I possibly can. I have had some really lovely reports. I do so hope you will enjoy yours.

I know that Pam Gregory`s latest forecast is appreciated by many people:

I have seen this before but it remains unbelievably beautiful xxxx

With my love and best wishes