I struggle to get running. Peter smiles to himself as he watches me procrastinate, putting off the dreaded moment when one foot must go in front of the other and the mountain must be climbed. That has been especially true in the last few weeks. Once I’m up there it’s a different story. The endless redeeming beauty of the farm is a balm for the soul. Especially at this time of year when the mountain is covered with flowers. I photograph them to share them with the world, but you really have to come here to see how prolific they are. I grew up in a country of great beauty and thought that I would never love any sight so much as when I rode along the Kilquade Road at dawn, before school or university, with the sun rising over the Irish Sea on my left and the Wicklow mountains looming dark and sultry on my right, the almond scent of the gorse on a May morning in the air. Or coming over the top of the hill after riding through the woods at Belleview; the whole county would lie sparkling before us, glittering all the way to Wicklow Head. Horses love a view and will stand like sentinels, gazing ‘eyes burning like two huge worlds… the mane lifting like the imperial purple.”
I love this farm every bit as much. Winter is especially joyful because unlike the winters of the north, here the weather is mild and the land springs to life after the long thirst of summer. Today is springlike, which means 25 degrees, a rare warm summer temperature in my native land. Birds breed in winter and early spring and the fynbos is full of the flutterings and song of parenthood. On quiet still evenings at sunset the higher places have the quality of a cathedral, that silent stillness, the deep quiet like a breath drawn in and not yet released. Such evenings have been a great solace over the past few weeks.
There are so many flowers. I have grouped them together below and if you move your cursor, or touch them on a device, the names should pop up.
We fell a little out of our running habits for a short while. Then I realised that Maebh was very down and she needed to get out and enjoy her farm again. A new puppy has arrived, she was horrified at first; now she has taken him into her heart. Her own puppy nature is coming out and she will play patiently and surprisingly gently with him for hours. She is suddenly wild and free on the mountain as these pictures of her chasing and running show. Jemima Chew on the other hand is rather stately around the puppy. She has already brought up two wolfhounds and clearly has no intention of bringing up a third, fortunately she is gentle soul, but she delegates the playing to Maebh.
So I run on, sharing this special mountain farm with the dogs and its flowers with the world. And all the while a gentle grey ghost runs alongside me, deeply rooted in my soul.
The lovely Arum lily grows wild in the Western Cape. They line the roads and grow in damp places, along streams which is where we find them on the farm. Lebostemon fructicosa comes in blue and in pink. The blue is especially pretty and lights up the paths on dark days.
This delicate pincushion is Leucospermum lineare, known as “The Vulnerable”. It is rare and endangered but grows happily along the drive and is safe with us.
This is the tarpea, the rambling Boluafra bituminosa.
Two early spring flowers, the crocus-like Babinia fragrans and the waxy coral coloured microloma tenufolium which winds it’s way all over the farm, sending out tiny flashes of red.
And a couple of views in the winter light. The effulgent green of Leucadendron salignum. Effulgent is not a pretty word but it means shining forth brilliantly which is exactly what these lovely shrubs do on a winter morning. In the second, the mountains are framed with the still flowering Protea repens.