This is the final day of our UK trip. As the garden is such an integral part of life in England, I decided to try my hand at some gardening. The house where we ‘re staying has a large garden at the back and also a front porch.
The single biggest task in gardening is lawn-mowing. Long unkempt grass looks very shabby. Also small white daisies tend to sprout up in the grass. In fields they look pretty in their vast multitude, but they’re undesirable in one’s home garden. Lawn-mowing is far more taxing than it looks; more so for tall people. As the domestic help, Mr Fred, had already done this yesterday I had only a few rough patches to work on.
This being done, I started the task I was really anticipating: weeding. Now, planting seeds, watering and watching the shoots grow is all fine. The vicious and ruthless part of gardening is preventing your chocolate-brown, muddy patch of earth from being invaded by ugly unwanted plants or weeds. This is truly back-breaking work and takes several hours to do properly. One has to painstakingly uproot weeds from the roots. Otherwise they will rapidly spring up again. This is the pail of weeds I pulled out after working for the better part of an hour.
This is the front porch after my stint here:
Gardening is a laborious process and needs at least seven to eight hours a week. Upkeep of one’s garden is definitely a worthy hobby.
In the afternoon we drove to Shere, a picture-postcard village with white-painted brick cottages, narrow winding lanes, the dominant church surrounded by a graveyard, the gurgling Tillingbourne, the small gift shop and the inevitable war memorial.
We first went inside the church which towered over every other building.
A choir group was practicing inside in stirring tones.
We walked for a while amidst the solemn head-stones in the graveyard.
The pillar on the right is the war memorial. The inscription is carved at the foot of the pillar.
There were several ducks and tiny ducklings in the smooth-flowing brook. I fed them small pieces of bread. The ducklings were most eager and squabbled ferociously over the morsels of bread. Even the adult ducks seemed to back off instead of facing the fury of the ducklings.
We next had classic English tea at a delightful little cafe called the Dabbling Duck.
I had goat-cheese sandwiches, a thick slice of sticky-toffee cake and Earl Grey tea. It was absolutely scrumptious.
After that hearty meal we went for a walk along the river Wey at nearby Shalford. The land on either side of Wey forms the Shalford parklands which were part of the Shalford House grounds. As this inscription tells us the country-house is now gone but the parklands are preserved as a delicate riverine ecosystem housing several rare flora and fauna. Interestingly, signboards told of the careful conservation work undertaken here. As these lands have been given up to nature they should eventually turn to woodlands. However, this would lead to the eventual destruction of the rare species currently found here (due to water shortage). Therefore the forest officials are carefully culling the large trees here.
To reach the river we first walked across these billiard-top public gardens.
Every few hundred yards the plant ecosystems kept changing. Walking through the thick woods (above) we reached a nettle-lined path on either side of wild meadows. The sun was shining brightly and remarkably there was no trace of rain throughout our little expedition.
At long last we reached the river. The muddy-brown waters seemed very thick but flowed steadily. There were very few people here and the only sounds were the hectic buzzing of the insects and the soft gurgle of the river itself.
Most people were walking their dogs and were even more polite than in urban areas. This culture is deliberately inculcated to avoid conflicts in deserted country paths. We walked by the river till we reached these vast open fields. Hundreds of white daisies were shining ablaze in the bright sunlight. Several enormous cows were laboriously cropping the grass and chewing their cud.
The railroad track was a few hundred yards away so every few minutes we could see the SouthWest trains silently chugging along. The contrast between the pastoral tranquility of the open fields and the bustling trains reflected the dichotomy at the heart of Britain herself.
We arrived at St Catherine’s Lock where the two sets of sluice-gates enables boats to sail upwards, against the current.
We sat on the grass banks along the Lock for a long time sipping Bulmers. This was an absolutely delightful walk. I now understand the attraction of the national pastime of taking a walk, especially in the warm summer months.
We went to an old elegant pub for dinner which had first opened in 1711. Again, I marvelled at the good vegetarian options available even in suburban and rural locations.