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Firstly, a note for non-England* readers. Since early January we have been in lockdown, which has meant we have had to stay at home other than for: work, where it cannot be done from home; essential shopping; local exercise, by household/’bubble’, or with one person from one other household maximum; and medical appointments. From 8th March: the outdoors meet-ups as described could include sitting down for, say, coffee or a picnic; schools have been back (though are now on holiday); and those in care homes can receive one named visitor.

*For non-UK readers: Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all have their own regulations, but some English live in those countries, so I couldn’t write ‘non-English’.

As of last Monday, 29th March we have been able to meet up outdoors in groups of up to six (or more, as long as this only includes two households) and outdoor sport has been allowed. The definition of ‘local’ has now explicitly been left to discretion. I have had a happily rich week as a result of these small relaxations, (though some of the ‘activities’ would have been permissible earlier, including, obviously, those happening on Zoom.)

Much of last weekend was spent assembling four garden dining chairs, in time for Wednesday. Given that the instructions came entirely with illustrations, and no words, they were not too difficult to understand. The quality of the chairs was good, all the parts were there (with four Allen keys because the lot was of four chairs!), but assembly was very fiddly, and it took me a long time and some sore fingers.

Monday evening I attended a Zoom meeting of the local (Mendip) branch of the European Movement. These have been monthly for some while. Not much campaigning is possible at present, but it is good to be in touch.

It had been lovely weather all day, and a friend, Linda, had told me during an afternoon phone call that she and her husband had just been to The Newt In Somerset, and among other things had much enjoyed the Snakes’ head fritillaries (of which there is one stray in my garden!). On an impulse late that night, I ordered myself a picnic lunch from The Newt for the next day, and, once my organic fruit and veg box had arrived in the morning, I made my way there, not having visited since October.

As I start writing this, it is my intention to write one consolidated blog post for the entire week, but I have so many reasonably decent photos that this may not be possible. Anyway, here are some of those I took at The Newt.

Lesser celandine bank on the way to the entrance
The nearest I got to the farm shop was to one of its windows.
A path I had not taken before, near the mound

I picked up my pre-ordered lunch from the Cyder Bar, and moved to avoid the crowds around and at the tables nearby. I was pleased to see that there was plenty of empty seating in the Parabola, looking bare at present as its hundreds of apple trees are not yet in blossom.

The vegan spring vegetable pasty was divine. Really. I have never had pastry like it, and the copious filling, of which I could just identify the spinach, was delicious. I can really recommend the apple juice as well, a blend of James Grieve apples and another I can’t remember.

I did not linger, but moved on to an area that was inaccessible the last time I was there, next to the Garden Café.

It overlooks the Kitchen Garden. I wonder what is being developed beyond.

Then I went in search of the Snakes’ head fritillaries, which come in mauve,

white,

and in-between.

The app which holds my ticket to The Newt tells me that this is Star Magnolia.
Shut now for Covid reasons, this is normally a coffee bar.

I then went a bit mad taking photographs of reflections of trees in various watery areas.

An early bluebell

I can’t wait for the Museum of Gardening to be allowed to open. I’m told it’s good for a two-hour visit.

I strolled into the Deer Park, but sadly saw no deer, unlike Linda and her husband the day before, who saw both roe and fallow deer.

I had not been able to venture down this slope previously as it had been shut off as too muddy and dangerous. There is now an easy, sandy, gravelled pathway – I’m sure there’s a technical name for the substance.

Plenty of quirky seating.

Oops, another one.

I felt I deserved an ice cream after all that exercise.

I limited myself to one scoop of the lemon curd flavour, enjoying it on the way back to my car.

And on the way home took care to avoid this leaping horse. I’m sure that wasn’t there before the pandemic…

Hmm, I can see this is going to be a bit long. Part 2 will follow…

Happy Easter!