Towery city and branchy between towers;
Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmèd, lark charmèd, rook racked, river-rounded;
The dapple-eared lily below thee; that country and town did
Once encounter in, here coped & poisèd powers;
Thou hast a base and brickish skirt there, sours
That neighbour-nature thy grey beauty is grounded
Best in; graceless growth, thou hast confounded
Rural, rural keeping — folk, flocks, and flowers.
Yet ah! this air I gather and I release
He lived on; these weeds and waters, these walls are what
He haunted who of all men most sways my spirits to peace;
Of realty the rarest-veinèd unraveller; a not
Rivalled insight, be rival Italy or Greece;
Who fired France for Mary without spot.
from “Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins Now First Published” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ed. Robert Bridges.
Blessed John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) was one of those remarkable Franciscans – the first of them was our patron, Agnellus of Pisa (1195-1236 – who helped make the early Oxford University into one of the great European centres of learning. Hopkins, the 19th Century Jesuit priest and scholar, admired Scotus, who died on this day in 1308, in Cologne. How European we were in those times!
Recently Mrs T and I were at the southern edge of Manchester, in Didsbury, and walked away from the houses, across the main road, into Fletcher Moss Park. I expected Fletcher Moss to be a wetland, as in Chat Moss and other boggy areas around Manchester, but it is named after Mr Fletcher Moss, who gave his house and estate to the city of Manchester early last century.
The land does slope down to the River Mersey, and the lower areas were too wet for our city shod feet, so my expectations were not altogether dashed.
Before we arrived at the park, we crossed the tramway by this Poppy Bridge, remembering the fallen of the Great War. Nearby children from three local schools have scattered poppy seed, to flower this summer, 100 years since the end of that war. (And flower they did, in profusion.)
After walking through Didsbury Park, well populated by young children and parents off to meet siblings from those three local schools, we came to the edge of Fletcher Moss Park, with its sports fields and fine benches including Rory’s Bench, covered in carved creatures, and a formidable lacrosse player. The game is more popular in these parts than most of England.
Mr Moss’s garden had been a little neglected in recent times, until a voluntary group was formed to undertake many of the City Council’s responsibilities. We admired the hellebores in the beds near the house, including this one, thriving in the cold.
Also near the house were witch hazel bushes, worth seeing silhouetted against the grey sky as well as in colour on the dark background of walls and branches. This computer cannot share the scent, clean and sharp.
More scent, sweeter this time, at ground level from snowdrops and oxlips, a hybrid between primroses and cowslips.
A little further and we were at a corner of rainforest – well most English people know that if you can see the Pennine Hills from Manchester, it is going to rain; if you can’t see them, it must be raining.
It wasn’t raining yet … and just around the corner a bank of heather – erica – a plant that shuns our alkaline soil in East Kent.
How’s this for early March?
We wandered down to the next level; as I said, it was too muddy for city shoes to approach the river, but there was a clump of young willow ablaze in the afternoon light. I’m told by my colleagues at L’Arche that for weaving and basket making, the golden-green and the dark red not only contrast well when woven together, they have slightly different properties. I must learn more.
And I must come back to Fletcher Moss next time I’m visiting family in Manchester, and see how it looks in other seasons. Many thanks to the volunteers who are helping the City council care for this treasure.
(This post was scheduled before the Mersey flooded much of this area in January 2012.)
An Estonian friend’s news from home: Tallinn is unnaturally quiet, few people on the streets, but the forests and beaches are full of people enjoying unexpectedly not being in town. Let’s hope and pray they stay safe.
No sooner had I written that paragraph than I read that in France, the Prefects of Departements around the coast are closing all the beaches to the public.