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Happy Winter Solstice everyone, for folk who live in direct contact with the soil or purely in tune with the natural environment around them the most special date in the late December calendar.  A time to enjoy the stored harvest from the past season, to reflect on the season gone and how we might make the next one better and to look forward to the promise of the days growing longer, the buds breaking, the soil warming and the new growing year.

High Bank would like to share a seasonal greeting and a (not so) wee dram with all the guests, friends and family that have shared the past year with us.  It has been a great vintage; the guest cottage welcoming many friendly visitors, the produce baskets have been overflowing, the wine, whisky and gin also overflowing, the sunshine a familiar friend.  The Herefordshire/Shropshire landscape has been a joy, the hedgerows have been a constantly changing parade of flowers, the season was so long that we had many repeat visits from some favorites like the red campion.  The fruit trees have been laden and the papery beech leaves glowing in the long light.

I am going to sign off with a seasonal poem, about the white stuff, from one of my favorite poets, just for the purpose of this solstice post having captured three of my favorite inventions (Whisky, Trees and Poetry)

SNOW AND SNOW   by Ted Hughes

Snow is sometimes a she, a soft one.
Her kiss on your cheek, her finger on your sleeve
In early December, on a warm evening,
And you turn to meet her, saying “It”s snowing!”
But it is not. And nobody”s there.
Empty and calm is the air.

Sometimes the snow is a he, a sly one.
Weakly he signs the dry stone with a damp spot.
Waifish he floats and touches the pond and is not.
Treacherous-beggarly he falters, and taps at the window.
A little longer he clings to the grass-blade tip
Getting his grip.

Then how she leans, how furry foxwrap she nestles
The sky with her warm, and the earth with her softness.
How her lit crowding fairylands sink through the space-silence
To build her palace, till it twinkles in starlight
Too frail for a foot
Or a crumb of soot.

Then how his muffled armies move in all night
And we wake and every road is blockaded
Every hill taken and every farm occupied
And the white glare of his tents is on the ceiling.
And all that dull blue day and on into the gloaming
We have to watch more coming.

Then everything in the rubbish-heaped world
Is a bridesmaid at her miracle.
Dunghills and crumbly dark old barns are bowed in the chapel of her sparkle.
The gruesome boggy cellars of the wood
Are a wedding of lace
Now taking place.

There is a pagan tradition carried out on the solstice where regrets and hopes are written onto dried leaves and thrown into the fire where their burdens or promises are released.  A poignant way to mark the end of one season and the beginning of another.

2015 promises to be an exciting year with many changes afoot, we will back on the blog with lots of updates, we hope our previous guests and everyone involved with us will support the adventure and come back and visit as we unfold the next chapter…

Until then, enjoy the solstice, enjoy the winter, the crisp air, making soup from squashes, wood chopping, walking in the woods (so good for the soul,) watching for the snowdrops, watching for the snow.
SEASONS GREETINGS with love and care from us at High Bank

Sky blue, temp 6c
Time for a Dram