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China Girl blog 24th January 2018

Blown in on the wind, images and shadows. Texture, form and structure make for the winter garden. But above all, the sleeping trees with their gnarled branches reflecting against the winter sky, adding a sense of permanence and waiting in the cold winter garden.

One of our treasured trees is the Metasequoia glyptostroboides, which in the wild grows to 115 feet. A native of China, restricted to West Hupeh and north-east Szechwan, where it grows in ravines and on the banks of streams. The tree was first seen in 1941 by a Chinese botanist. Seeds were collected three years later and sent to the Arnold Arboretum in America; the seeds were distributed in europe in 1948. We do not know how it arrived at Cothay. Our Metasequoia must be one of the oldest in the country; we estimate it is now 60 feet tall and must be approximately 70 years old. The leaves are a soft green, turning foxy brown before falling. We are very proud of this fine specimen, and we delight in its mysterious origin.

If you collect seeds of a tree in the wild, bring them home and propagate them, growing them on until large enough to plant out. After many years when the tree is large enough for you to climb, that is “one-upmanship”!

A new face at Cothay joining the team, is a retired carpenter Derrick, who comes once a week to do maintenance. Derrick has already repaired many broken and damaged objects. Leading to the top of the house is a small spiral staircase made of elm which because of its condition, is never used. Derrick has rejuvenated it, sanding and polishing it and bringing up its lovely colour and grain. How beautiful it looks, a lovely addition to the old house.

Septimus has reinstated the third shutter in the Great Hall, made of 18th century elm floorboards, the brackets hand made. What a difference it has made to the hall.

Where you live and what you do casts its influence over you. The purple shadows of the winter days lengthen; wisps of colour drift through the early morning mists and as they disappear, all is quiet as we wait for longed-for spring and we settle down to earthly tasks.