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China Girl blog 13th February 2019

Mother thought when she looked out one morning, how lovely were the films of cloudy mist entwining their silky vapours through the tall old pines, like ancient lovers waiting for the sun to banish their dreams and welcome another day.

Despite the miserable forecast, we went ahead as planned to clear the oxbow. Team Cothay apprehensively gathered on the lawn above the steep bank. Once we had set about the momentous task our spirits lifted, realising what four people and Shirley, who had been cajoled into helping, could achieve. The bank is steep and slippery and David tied Ma to a tree, enabling her to work on a very steep section. Everyone else managed to stay upright without falling into the water below. The oxbow had, many years ago been part of the River Tone, diverted by Colonel Cooper in the 1920’s. Now the river takes another path, winding its way past the arboretum at the bottom of the garden. The next day the operation continued, despite the horrid weather. At the end of the day, we were all wet and covered in mud, especially Rose, who had dug out the huge old roots of stinging nettles. What an enormous sense of achievement was felt at the end of the day. Whilst we were in the oxbow, Wesley was on the digger where Ma felt he was safe; as he is eighty years old she thought he should be excused the hazardous task in case he didn’t make ninety by falling into the water!

Growing under the beech trees, brightening the entrance to the garden are the enchanting cyclamen. They are native to the Crimea, Bulgaria, Turkey, north-west Syria to the Caucasus and north-west Iran, where they grow in beech and pine woods, flowering from February to May, according to their altitude. Ma remembers seeing them in Turkey when botanising with the botanist Oleg Polunin, some forty years ago. Memories like light and shade come to mind at the sight of these little flowers in late winter.

As we shake off the winter and the earth begins to stir with life, we think how lucky we are to live in this lovely land, with all the joy that brings echoes that fade upon the February air.

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