PHIL CALVERT: I have the best seat in the house!

Phil Calvert

Phil Calvert

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AS you walk or drive along you sometimes come across a place that offers a fantastic view that simply demands that you stop for a moment and pay attention.

More often than not, this occurs as you crest a hill or turn an abrupt corner and an amazing panorama is presented to you. We all have our favourites and the drama of the view can be affected by the time of year we look upon it.

During the autumn months, my favourite place is probably the area around Loughrigg heading towards Grasmere and Rydal. The reds of the maple trees contrast superbly with the yellows of the larch. You turn a corner and another fabulous specimen of maple or Virginian creeper is presented to you. But it is the view across the mirrored surface of Grasmere itself that I love best with the colours of the trees set against the backdrop of the fells. Beautiful!

Not a place to linger in the cold, but utterly dramatic, Pendle Hill is much more local. With a brisk chilly wind whistling across the fields, and grey clouds racing across the skies, all the drama of the austere which the Brontes tried to convey comes together for me, not near Haworth, but near Newchurch. As you drive up the lane between the dark, damp walls, suddenly the dark majesty of dear old Pendle comes into view as you turn the corner. Almost menacing it is a magnificent prospect which it is all too easy to take for granted.

In the heat of the summer, a personal favourite of mine is the view from near the top of Sutton Bank, between Thirsk and Helmsley. Rising so abruptly above the Vale of Mowbray, the view is impressive at any time of year, but it is in hot sunshine of high summer that it comes into its own. With the ground dry underfoot, you can feel the heat rising from the ground, whilst for once the wild flowers are not buffeted by a chilly breeze , but in full bloom are being busily visited by bees and butterflies. Thin trails of high white clouds streak the otherwise clear blue skies above whilst the sun beats down upon a grateful land. It is an enchanting place.

Occasionally gliders take off from the nearby runway to soar gently and effortlessly to ride the thermals, sometimes passing close enough overhead for you to catch the sound of the air rushing under the wings. But these are mere distractions. It is the view across the Vale of Mowbray that demands attention.

At the foot of the escarpment, tractors busy themselves mowing, cutting and harvesting. The red pantile roofs of the farm buildings offer a friendlier, warmer feel than the usual greys of slates which prevail in most areas. The flat fields in the middle-distance form a vast checkerboard fading in the heat haze with the Pennines, perhaps 20 miles away offering soft purple hues as they meet the sky on the distant horizon. There is little to do other than walk. Nevertheless, it is a place to visit and a place to linger.

Right now, of course, we are in the spring and the country is littered with many lovely places all looking pristine. Almost everywhere you look there are trees or shrubs in blossom. Our Victoria plum is smothered in blossom offering the prospect of a bumper crop. With some weeping cherries already in full flower, there is no doubt that spring has sprung, and indeed some daffs are already finishing, but it will be another week or so before the candy pink Kanzan cherries dominate the scene with their huge double pink flowers.

For me, their arrival marks the transition between the chillier spring months and the gentler temperatures of May. Last weekend, we had scorching weather, but by Monday a chilly gusting wind had returned, reminding us that it is still only early April. Nevertheless the gardening season is in full swing. So, I hear you ask, when can we put bedding plants out? With the prospect of chilly nights still a possibility, it is a little early yet. Pansies and violas are tough and can be planted out safely. So too can antirrhinum (Snapdragons) and sweet peas, but for now you should be modest in your use of the likes of begonias, petunias, lobelia and geraniums.

Having said that, I like to plant up the odd hanging basket or tub at home with trailing plants and tender bedding plants for bringing-on in the greenhouse. This gives stuff a head start, so that by mid-May, subject to the weather, I can hang out fairly mature baskets and welcome in the summer. Whilst it remains chilly outside, it can be very therapeutic to see stuff growing away steadily.

Not only that, it provides a bolt-hole for me to escape from my youngest daughters preparations for her 21st birthday in two weeks’ time. I’ve already tripped over her new shoes in the hallway, seen her new party dress (what there is of it) but I’ve managed to avoid being too deeply involved in issuing invitations, booking hairdressers and the like. There is still a fortnight to go but our bathroom has never been under so much pressure, which is ironic because the view from our bathroom provides one of my favourite spring views.

Over the conservatory roof, I look across the back gardens and see, orange berberis, white exochorda “The Bride”, pink camellias, white stellata magnolias, the red shoots and white flowers of pieris “Forest Flame”, the white blossom of the cherries, with the pink ones in heavy bud, the rich pinks of flowering currant and the bright yellow of kerria, all in flower at the same time with the rhododendrons and azaleas all about to call out for attention. It is a magnificent sight and usually it is for my eyes only. You might say I have the best seat in the house!