There is this new thing which is really a very old thing. It is called Wild Swimming, otherwise known as swimming outside in rivers, lakes, ponds, in the sea even! With most of us not travelling abroad for holidays, Wild Swimming has taken off big time, but more than this, for many, including myself, it has become a mechanism for new friendships, and a massive lift to confidence, mental and physical health. I went for a dip at Shingle Street on the Suffolk coast at sunrise on New Year’s day 2022.
Another lift (for me at any rate) is music performed by the Fitzwilliam String Quartet. They are performing, free of charge, by live stream on Saturday Jan 8 at 19:30.
The programme includes: Purcell: Fantazia No.6 (1680), Barcham Stevens: Doubleon Purcell’s Fantazia No.6 (2014), Haydn: Quartet in D major, Op.76/5 (1796), Beethoven: Quartet in C sharp minor, Op.131 (1826)
On 11 and 12 May 2022 they will return to Suffolk for two concerts at Aldeburgh Parish Church. This is not so far from Shingle Street! So come to these concerts and take to the waters while you are at it!
The programme will include: BEETHOVEN Quartet in E minor, Op.59/2 (Rasumovsky), MENDELSSOHN Quartet in F minor, Op.80 and BRITTEN Quartet No.3, BEETHOVEN Quartet in A minor, Op.132
Something the pandemic has shown us is that increasingly people are turning (or re-turning) to nature for inspiration and sustenance at a difficult time. At a different and much broader global scale, nature is taking a more centre stage as countries come together to address the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change – the recent G7 meeting and the Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) hosted by the UK in Glasgow in November, are examples of this.
The pandemic has caused a big drive on gardening, and we have jumped on this bandwagon willingly. Our focus has been to try and make a wildflower meadow. Native wildflower grasslands have been lost across England at an alarming rate over the past three or four decades with only 2% of this important wildlife habitat remaining. These places are important not just for the flowers, but also for the pollinating insects they support, and a wide variety of other flora and fauna. They are mini-ecosystems too, offering us a range of services for ‘free’ – capturing carbon, retaining water, improving the soil, not to mention inspiration for art in all its forms.
Our little meadow is in its early stages – its first year in fact. In November 2019 we began to clear deeply rooted scrub, keeping some for habitat mosaic and heterogeneity. In October 2020, (with the help of Sarah and Seth Lord of Native Gardens) wildflower seed, of East Anglian provenance, was sown, and by June it was looking gorgeous with a beautiful range of annual flowers as a nursery crop for the later mix of perennial herbs and sensitive grasses that we are hoping for next year. We have experienced a sea of colour, starting with poppies (red), moving to corn chamomile (white), then cornflower (blue) and finally corn cockle (pink) and corn marigold (yellow). The meadow is bounded by a (failing) hedge of Holly on one side – not all our efforts work at first – and a beech hedge separating us from our neighbours.
The results, so far, are not just about looking nice. We have monitored the wildlife that is using our space, and we use a light-trap to catch moths overnight and identify them the next day before letting them go unharmed – moth diversity is already increasing.
The video below shows the changes we have witnessed over the year. The musical accompaniment is by The Fitzwilliam String Quartet together with Lesley Schatzberger.