I just arrived back from a trip back home to England, and am trying to get back in the rhythm oflife here. While I was away, the garden continued to grow, and so did the piles of newspapers, and mail and the e-mails and phone messages, until I almost despair of getting caught up. Life went on here, while I was being taken back to my childhood with some time spent in the northern county of Yorkshire.
My sister lives in leafy Surrey, where you cannot throw a stone without hitting a tree. (Except of course that no one in Surrey would be so impolite as to throw a stone.) The country there is restful and charming, but a summer of drought has harmed the green lawns and leaves are falling much earlier than usual.
When Shirley and I were children, we spent summers in Harrogate with our aunt and uncle, and so we drove up there for several days and revisited places well remembered.
Yorkshire has two scenic areas, the dales and the moors, and we visited both for as long as time allowed.
September is the perfect month to be on the moors, which were purple with heather as far as the eye could see.
This plant, Calluna vulgaris, is a low evergreen shrub and grows on acidic soil in open sun, blooming in fall with purple flowers which will turn brown as winter approaches, but remain on the plant. The rolling hills are covered with heather and bracken, and the multitudes of sheep graze happily as they wander.
Driving around the moors on the winding, lonely roads was a pleasure after the organized chaos of the motorways. On either side the fields were polka-dotted with white sheep, as well as the occasional black one. In many areas the sheep roamed freely, crossing the road as they wished.
In one village, I took a picture of a choosy animal standing on her hind legs, nibbling at the tender leaves on the very top of the hedge surrounding a cottage garden, blissfully ignoring traffic and passers-by.
Boundaries here on the moors, and also in the dales, are marked with beautiful, historic drystone walls. I love stone, and these constructions are endlessly fascinating, mile after mile of walls built with no mortar, just local stones fitted with unbelievable precision.
Some of them have stood for hundreds of years. People have been building these walls for more than 2,000 years, fitting in the individual stones like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, with such skill the walls stand for centuries, marking the divisions between fields.
We spent two days exploring the dales, beautiful valleys made famous in recent times by the books of vet/author James Herriot. I traveled with the book "James Herriot's Yorkshire" on my lap, and was able to duplicate many of the illustrations with my camera. I think my brother-in-law was quite happy to leave my quest with its frequent "Please stop right there!" and begin the lovely drive south on back roads through the Peak District and the picturesque Cotswolds.
And then of course there was the traditional trip to Brighton & Hove, where we grew up. In spite of cold and rainy weather, Shirley and I put our feet in the English Channel and gathered a few shells which Noah and Owen love, as proof we were really there.
Altogether a wonderful vacation, but still it was good to arrive home. And now to reduce the piles of work a little at a time, and to take up the tasks waiting for me.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.
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