One of the things I love about Milton Keynes is that no matter where abouts in it you live, you are always within walking distance of a bit of public open space and greenery. On Sunday morning I took advantage of this and took my girls out into the cold, crisp air for a walk "in the country". I was armed with a plastic bag and a pair of scissors.
We headed out of the top north-west corner of Walnut Tree, towards The Open University at Walton Hall. Running along side the Walton Hall site is Church Lane, which has clearly been there for longer than Milton Keynes itself. Either side of the lane is well established hedgerow which in autumn yields such treats as elder berries, brambles and sloes. No edible fruit at this time of year but masses of ivy. I helped myself to 3 long strands, safe in the knowledge that I was not seriously damaging the ivy crop available here! Further down I snipped off some hawthorn berries and a few remaining rosehips.
At the end of Church Lane there is, no surprise, a church, and just beyond that, a bridge over the River Ousel. I snipped a few clippings from the yew tree then took the girls onto the bridge and gave them the option of either retracing our steps back up the lane home or to continue on our walk and head off to Caldecotte Lake. To my surprise they chose to continue along the river to the lake. So off we headed, spotting a rather cold looking heron along the way.
We paused at the lake to admire the view across to the Caldecotte Arms and before we knew it we had been joined by a flock of ducks, swans and gulls, clearly expecting to be fed. Sadly, it hadn't occurred to me to bring bread. Further round, the lake was frozen slightly. The lightweight gulls were stood on the ice, whilst the fat ducks were too heavy. As they moved towards us in the hope of food the thin ice "twinked" as it cracked around them.
Here the lake is close to the houses of Walton Park, some of which have an enviable view across the lake from their balconies. Rather than ancient hedgerow, the plants here are part of the municipal planting. I have long admired the municipal planting around Milton Keynes because it is clearly well thought out to provide interest and colour all year round. The red and yellow dogwoods may be bare of the leaves but their colours are stunning. Whilst my girls admired the waterfowl and tried to crack the thin ice by throwing sticks at it, I snipped off I few strains of the dogwood to add to my collection.
Finally we returned to the housing of Walnut Tree, admiring as we went the garlands on people's doors, looking for inspiration.
It was lunchtime by the time we returned home, feeling rosy and with a good appetite. Hurriedly I made some cheese on toast which tasted really delicious after our walk then after lunch I set about making use of our "harvest". The ivy, yew and berries I worked around a circular wire to fashion into our Christmas garland. To this I added a bit of red ribbon as a finishing touch.
Then, with the garland on the front door, I set about fashioning the dogwood twigs into star shaped decorations. This was fairly straightforward, just requiring bending or snapping into shape. I found it easiest to hold the twig in shape with sandwich ties then covering up the sandwich ties with coloured curling ribbon later. Well, I think they made lovely decorations.
What a lovely way to spend a Sunday - a refreshing walk rewarded with beautiful natural Christmas decorations.