Saturday, February 02, 2008


After storms that caused a couple of shipwrecks and snow in the north, today was a still and clear day with bright sunshine. It was fairly cold but we wrapped up well and took a trip to see the Kingston Lacy snowdrops. There are six million snowdrops in the grounds of this Dorset stately home. The grassy banks are covered with them at a time when little else is flowering.

This was the first time that we had seen them and they are certainly spectacular, but when you have seen one flowery knoll you've seen them all and we got rather bored with snowdrops, looking instead for the occasional early daffodil, the odd clump of camellias or even the errant rhododendron, pink on the pale day. We examined the different types of trees; the enormous beeches, spectacular without their leaves, the gnarled oaks and the scruffy hollies.

Then we started looking at the people. I have never seen so many visitors at Kingston Lacy; there must have been three thousand there. What was remarkable was how similar they all were. There were some young ones in their fifties, the majority were in their sixties, quite a few were in their seventies, but the over eighties were also well represented. The local conurbation has over 450,000 people and one in three is over sixty years of age.

Everywhere we looked were grey haired couples in anoraks. This is apparently an annual pilgrimage. Thousand of people nearing the end of their lives troop to Kingston Lacy in the middle of winter to pay homage to the little snowdrop, the first sign that there will indeed be another year.

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