I was woken by the sounds of a nightingale early this morning and the birdsong has continued on this brightish day. It is lovely to hear after the recent rains. I heard the first cuckoo on 16th April but I am still waiting to see the first swallows and house martins return. The house martins nest each year in the eves on the front of the Dairy, which faces west - it is great to watch them flitting backwards and forwards and feeding their young. There are a great variety of birds in the garden and surrounding fields, and although I am no bird watcher I have noticed flocks of skylarks, several woodpeckers, pied wagtails and a variety of tits and finches amongst them. I must find a bird book to help my recognition!
The orchard was humming this morning - the cherry blossom is beautiful at the moment with a delicious scent. The plum and gage blossom is fading and the apple and pear is just beginning to come out. We planted the orchard in 1997, there are 36 trees altogether, with a row of cherries on the left, a row of plums and gages at the back and a row of pears on the right - in the middle are apples. They are all old varieties associated with Suffolk and Essex, we thought this seemed appropriate as this whole area up until the 1970's was covered with apple orchards - it is sad that they were grubbed up. Only one apple tree remains from that time - but I have an aerial photo of the farm in the 1970's and also some documents from the records office listing the varieties that were here in 1951!
I hope that the recent rain doesn't spoil the pollination - hopefully the sun this morning will help. On Sunday the kitchen garden looked very dramatic in the stormy weather with a double rainbow behind the wall. Beyond the next field behind the wall are two ancient woods - Butlers Wood and Waldegrave Wood, as well as Parsonage Wood over towards the Tye - we often get a rainbow that seems to start in Parsonage Wood and end in Butlers Wood, going across the sky behind the garden - it always looks magical though of course I would prefer sunshine to rain!
Easter is always a time of excursions. Yesterday we went over to Orford to visit the Ness. From now until September the National Trust run boats (every 20 minutes) over to the island every Saturday, and on other days in the height of summer. The boat trip is short but to see the Ness fully you need a good 2-3 hours and when the weather is good it would be a great place to take a picnic. A system of arrows shows the routes and there are quite a few interesting buildings to encounter whilst you are there. The landscape is an interesting mixture of grazing land, low lying ditches and lagoons and the wilder expanses of shingle which are completely open to the North Sea and the north-easterly wind which was blowing yesterday! Now an SSI with interesting habitats and a vast array of bird and plant life, its previous military uses are very much in evidence, both in the buildings including the AWRE site, where weapons such as Britain's first atomic bomb 'Blue Danube' could be tested in the labs, known locally as 'pagodas' and in the debris and signs warning of the possibility of unexploded ordnance.
After a bracing walk we called in at Pinney's to buy some smoked prawns and the delicious taramasalata that they make and then went to the Butley Orford Oysterage for a mouth-watering lunch of sea food - wonderful! Later on to Aldeburgh, where the town was bustling, with several interesting shops and galleries, not forgetting to call at Ives ice cream shop too!