Yesterday we returned from a winter weekend in Herefordshire which was spent mostly underneath a blanket of cold fog. It was a time for roaring fires, mulled apple juice and some time looking inwards.
I love the slow disintegration and sparseness of this time of year. At Croft Castle we saw apple trees pruned hard, their branches reduced to gnarled stumps, yet still bearing rough-skinned, golden eating apples with soft sweet flesh. We picked a bag of fresh windfall walnuts, their green cases leaking deep brown dye onto our fingers.
Mistletoe is everywhere in Herefordshire. I love its bare shape, the palest creamy green colour of the berries and its ancient magic and symbolism. It grows in the most perfect balls like ethereal baubles high up in the trees.
Or sometimes low down in the trees, low enough to kiss under.
Piles of prunings surrounded the orchard trees. This is a time for trimming, tidying and sweeping and then leaving things alone to rest quietly for the short cold days and long dark nights.
This is the cottage we stayed in for the first part of our honeymoon in June 2007. It was the wettest summer in living memory and like many others in the country we were flooded out and forced to relocate. You can see pictures from that summer here.
These apples were waiting to be pressed for cider, although they did look a bit grubby. But I expect that all adds flavour. Their sweet heady smell in the fresh afternoon air was wonderful.
One of the things I read while we were away was this astonishing article about the painter Sargy Mann. It is a remarkable tribute to the human spirit and the force of creativity and I found it a tremendous inspiration.