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The Lark Ascending

Photo: TheOtherKev

Yesterday the cockerel on the weather vane was facing to the east. This means the wonderfully warm weather of recent days has been replaced by something far more blustery and cold. It was definitely a Norfolk wind - too lazy to go round you so it just goes through you! We've gone from shorts to roll-necks and extra jumpers and gloves. A lovely, wind-blown walk over fields towards Northrepps starting to show their cereal crops that by harvest will be hip-high. On our return we crossed the railway in time to see the train from Sheringham to Norwich trundle down the track. I don't think he was very busy because as we waved he replied with a very cheery toot-toot and there were no faces at the windows. I bet the trains are running on time.

By the bridge is the most lovely display of wild primroses, gloriously yellow. apart from a couple so pale they were almost white.

The walk back via the airfield allowed us to see several large hares rush away at top speed, what we think are wild plums in blossom (will wait with anticipation to see if they fruit) and larks in the fields.

I have been fascinated by these birds, their amazing aerobatics and wonderful distracting song since seeing and hearing them in the abandoned Mounts orchard at the back of the house in Canterbury. It was also the first place I saw Great Crested Newts - a really wild and abandoned place behind broken fences that we weren't really allowed into. Eventually the site was covered in housing.

I found some footage of the nursery in its heyday:

Most larks are pale brown with dark streaks in subtly different patterns. They have rounded wings and rather short tails, stout legs with a long, straight hind claw and strong, triangular, pointed bills. Their young are not particularly 'pretty' but their adult song forgives this. Larks have more elaborate calls than most birds and sing while in flight in open areas. They nest on the ground and avoid wooded or bushy areas. Two species breed in the UK, but there are many more species worldwide.

When I first heard the Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams I was transfixed and every time I see one launch skyward the tune sores alongside the flight. It is one of the classical pieces that is a way into the genre for young children. You can hear a performance of the Lark Ascending at

When one takes the time to stand and stare there is so much to see and hear and certainly our consciousness about the flora and fauna around us has been heightened.

George, eagle-eyed as ever, spotted the return of the diplodocus to the marshes around Southampton.

Having mentioned W H Davies in an earlier posting maybe his most famous poem, Leisure, should have an airing. It was a favourite of my dad and one that he would recite whilst standing and staring, usually leaning on a fence-post in the Lake District.

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

William Henry Davies or W. H. Davies (1871-940) was a Welsh poet and writer and was one of the most popular poets of his time. As a youth of 12 he was arrested, as one of a gang of five schoolmates, and charged with stealing handbags; receiving twelve strokes of the birch as a punishment.

Davies spent a significant part of his life as a tramp or hobo, in the UK and the United States. He went to make his fortune in the Klondike in 1899 but in attempting to jump a freight train with fellow tramp, Three-fingered Jack(!), he lost his footing and his right foot was crushed and the leg had to be amputated and was replaced with a wooden leg. He returned to the UK and lived in doss houses around London - all the time writing poetry.

In October 1905 Davies met Edward Thomas, and went to live on the Thomas's farm in Kent. It was here that he wrote his book The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp. In later life he mixed with the great and good of the literary world, married and died peacefully at home in rural Gloucestershire.


We are lucky to have our own egg supply and sometimes we are in danger of being over-run. This is a recipe to use eggs up and there is not much better than a home-made brûlée whilst sitting and watching the birds in the garden. You can use the whites to make meringues.

Vanilla Crème Brûlée


110g/4oz caster sugar

2 vanilla pods, split

750ml/27fl oz double cream

250ml/9fl oz milk


1. Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/Gas 1.

2. Place the egg yolks and caster sugar in a bowl and add the vanilla seeds and pods. Using a whisk, gently combine the mixture, then slowly stir in the cream and milk.

3. Pass the mix through a sieve and divide between six small ovenproof dishes or ramekins (about 9cm in diameter and 2.5cm deep). Place in the oven and cook for about 1½ - 2 hours until set on the top. To check, move the dish and if the cream mixture still ripples, it's not cooked. (But over-cooking will cause the brûlée to crack on the top once cooked, so be careful)

4. Remove from the oven and place in the fridge until set; normally about an hour.

5. Dust the surface with the demerara sugar and grill until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Robert Macfarlane's Word of the Day is ...

"laverock - Scots name for the Skylark, from Old English lawerce, lark. Thus "laverockhall" meaning sky, heavens."

Lawerce translates as 'traitor worker' which may refer to the lark's habit of soaring, singing and then landing some way from the nest before running back under the cover of the dense vegetation on the ground.

photo: TheOtherKen

ps: Thank you to the kind reader who corrected instruction number 11 from yesterday - it should have read cooled not cooked - dutifully amended.


"For all those people finding it difficult at the moment, the sun will shine again and the clouds will go away." - Capt Tom Moore.
and I rose up, and knew that I was tired, and continued my journey” - Edward Thomas.
"Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." - St. Francis of Assisi
“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well”. - Julian of Norwich

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Martin Castle
Apr 21, 2020

Glad you enjoyed it Sarah. I don't think my dad would have admitted to being a poetry-lover but he knew what he liked and he could recite what he knew.


Sarah Harvey
Sarah Harvey
Apr 21, 2020

Loved this Martin - thank you, the poem is profound (your father must have been a lovely man). I've ordered the Autobiography xx


Martin Castle
Apr 21, 2020

Criminal mind - as sharp as a tack. I stand corrected.


Apr 21, 2020

We moved to Canterbury in 1968 just before my 9th birthday.


Martin Castle
Apr 21, 2020

Yes, I remember the Sturry Rd nursery too. Mounts was on Forty Acres in St Stephens and ran from the bottom of the Whitstable Road to the railway embankment of the old Crab & Winkle Line that went into Canterbury West. There were lots of glasshouses. The railway embankment was cut to create Beaconsfield Road, where we bought a new house in 1969. The inside of the railway embankment was our garden - very unusual and I'll try to work in a photo to a future blog.

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