Celebrating Candlemas

This year, for the first time, I decided to put up a Christmas light curtain along the back windows of my house, never thinking that it would be such a difficult job! Having finally got the things up, with a good deal of foul language, I have felt reluctant to take them down. As well as the candles and lights around the house they have provided a welcome point of light in a rather dim January.

Imagine my delight when I heard a representative from English Heritage talking about Candlemas on the radio recently. Apparently, a tradition preceding the one which instructs us to take down Christmas decorations on the twelfth night, this allows for decorations to remain until Candlemas – the second day of February, which means that my lights can stay put for some time yet!

And snowdrops are also known as Candlemas Bells as they bloom so early in the year, and often before February 2nd. At one time it was believed that it was bad luck to bring these flowers into the house before Candlemas, but an opposing view has it that they are believed to purify the home. According to folklore, an angel helped these Candlemas Bells to bloom and pointed them out as a sign of hope to Eve and the flower is thus often seen as a sign of hope for the world.

It seems to me that everything comes together quite neatly: lights, illumination, snowdrops and hope. I think I will continue with this tradition!

Vija

Old Pond Garden in the news

Westcombe News article

One of our regular volunteers, Anne R has written an article for the Westcombe News, all about her experiences of volunteering at the Old Pond Garden. It’s a great advert for us, and will hopefully encourage even more people to come along and help, especially if we are to expand into the Long Borders as well!

Charlton Champion post

The Charlton Champion has recently posted about the Christmas wreaths on the gates at the Old Pond Garden. There’s still a couple of days to take a walk there if you haven’t seen them. Read the full post here:

Eat your Christmas tree!

One of my presents this Christmas was a fun book called “How to eat your Christmas Tree” by Julia Georgallis. As you would expect for a book with such a title, there are some bonkers ideas in it – but there is a serious message behind it and some quite intriguing recipes too.

The statistics are quite sobering: the author calculates that if we DIDN’T cut down one years worth of Christmas trees, the carbon emissions saved would be the equivalent of banning all global air travel traffic for a year, or taking all the cars in the United Kingdom off the road for the next five years.

On a much lighter note, here are a couple of her recipes:

Christmas Tree Tea!

Apparently pine, fir and spruce contain a lot of vitamin C, although pine produces quite a weak tea. If you have a go, make sure you wash all the needles thoroughly. (And never use Yew, obviously.)

Ingredients: A handful of pine, fir or spruce needles / Juice of a lemon / 30ml (1fl oz or 2 Tbsp) Honey

Method: Brew the needles in a teapot for 6 minutes. Add a dash of lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of honey to each cup. Pour over the brewed tree tea and serve.

Christmas Tree Cordial

This tastes a bit like grapefruit juice according to the author!

Ingredients: Juice of 10 lemons, zest of 4 / 2 litres water / 700g caster sugar / 400g spruce and/or fir needles (you can also use some of the branches for flavour)

Method: Sterilise a 2l glass bottle. Bring the ingredients to the boil over medium-high heat, turn down low and simmer for 2 hours. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, a few times, to make sure no needles are left and pour into the sterilised bottle. Keeps for 2 weeks in the fridge.

Christmas Tree Mimosa

Ingredients: 70 ml Christmas tree cordial (above)/ 140 ml prosecco / Ice cubes and lemon

Method: Combine in a cocktail shaker, pour into a cold glass and serve!

How to eat your Christmas Tree by Julia Georgallis

Kathy

OPG diary – December 2020

2 December
A wet and chilly session, but good to be back after Lockdown II.

15 December
A great day for gardening! Lots of planting was done, path clearing was started, and as for the gate decoration – we’re getting really festive now. Mince pies (from Charlton Bakehouse) at half-time were much appreciated.

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The CABAHS bench, to commemorate our Platinum (70th) Anniversary, in situ. A lovely shady spot to look forward to next summer. We think perhaps a Trachelospermum climber up the back wall..

Christmas message tree at St Luke’s

The 'Christmas message tree' at St Luke's Church, Charlton, December 2021

Isn’t this a great idea? St Luke’s Church in Charlton Village asked residents to send in their Christmas messages and they would be hung on the tree outside, so everyone can read them as they walk past. There are some lovely children’s drawings and heartfelt messages. CABAHS has added a message on members’ behalf too.

A robin for Christmas

John Sturgis has recently written an article in the Spectator, much after my own heart. He says he has two birds on the go, one in the garden, one at the allotment, both real beauties — and both robins.

With much of the nation still working from home, robins have become more familiar than ever. Most species of garden birds are horribly in decline, but the robin has stubbornly stuck around in great numbers.

 

While those other great survivors, magpies and pigeons, are brash and ungainly, the robin is a delicate little gem: magpie song is shrill, pigeon dumbly repetitive, but robin chirrups are a delight. They’re bold, too. Other garden birds flap away when we appear, but not robins. In fact, they approach — as inquisitive as a kitten.

The robin has a territory that ‘can be as small as a half acre’ so where I live I must share my robin with several neighbours. But one always appears as soon as I venture out of the back door, for human activity is their cue. My robin particularly likes it when I use my daisy grubber on the lawn. The stabbing activity seems to prompt all the worms near the daisy to come to the surface, in case I stab them too, I suppose. But there she comes, Mrs Robin following my every footstep, darting around where I have just been, feasting on the worms leaving their cover.

I say ‘she’ but frankly I don’t know. No doubt your Chris Packham types would be able to gender a robin from half an acre away, but to the untrained amateur, male and female are very much interchangeable.

Sturgis points out that robins frequently come up in literature and songs – John Donne’s Robin Redbreast, or The Secret Garden, or Rockin Robin of the Jackson 5. And, of course, the robin is the Boy Wonder’s spirit bird in Batman. Imagine trying to pitch that set-up today. ‘I like this Bat guy – very dark and cool. What are we doing for the kid? A scorpion? Eagle?’ ‘No, we thought a robin.’ Yet it works, accentuating the character’s chirpy loyalty.

But their definitive place is on Christmas cards. They’ve somehow smuggled themselves into the greeting card nativity scene, apparent survivors, along with holly, ivy and mistletoe, of pre-Christian winter festivals, one of the few flashes of colour in the bleak midwinter.

So just go outside with a trowel or daisy grubber and she will soon appear. And despite the Christmas connotation, she’ll still be there in the bleaker days of January and February. Because robins are very much for enhancing life, not just for Christmas!

Kathy