A couple of days ago, as the planets and stars aligned – by which I mean of course that the sun was shining on a day that I felt like ‘getting out and about’; the two are frequently connected, but not always reliably so – we decided to pay a visit to the local lavender farm which is about five minutes down the road. The sign sits on the side of the road and we pass it every time we have to go westwards at all, since it is the next left turning off the 64.
Actually, I say ‘sign’, but this is Yorkshire where we don’t do *ordinary* so it’s not exactly a sign. It’s a white Bedford van with ‘Wolds Way Lavender‘ emblazoned on both sides of the vehicle, parked conspicuously on the grass verge at the corner of the road. You can’t really ignore it. Which, if you think about it is quite clever marketing…
So, I’ve been there before, a couple of times and rarely have I walked away without a considerable hole in my pocket. It’s a glorious place, as long as you like lavender of course. And it’s not that it’s expensive – quite the opposite, considering the artisan nature of the products made there – just that everything is so beautifully presented that the temptation to buy the entire stock is almost completely overwhelming, and I’m really not good with resisting such impulses!
As you embark from your vehicle in the car park the magnificent aroma of lavender makes an immediate impact as it envelopes you, enticing you to venture into the arena, led, almost in a trance, by your olfactory organ. I think it’s possible that I let out a small squeal of delight right there!
The shop-cum-cafe is the heart of the whole operation and greets visitors immediately upon arrival. There’s an air of Zen-like calmness as you push open the door to a welcoming gentle tinkle of the traditional bell. Well-laid out products, thoughtfully organised so that edible items are on one side whilst everything else lies alluringly to the other side by the unobtrusive till, silently beg you to ‘Buy ME! Buy ME!’. A glorious range of delicious ice-creams, sumptuous home-made cakes and the aromas of refreshing teas beckon you further into the centre of the room, where delightful tables and chairs are arranged, so that you have to decide whether to partake now or after you’ve had a look around. Beyond this lies the plant sales area – on my first visit, about eight weeks ago, I headed through here straight away and spent about half an hour selecting a couple of beautiful small lavender plants as well as some herbs and a couple of wild-flower seedlings too.
I had never before realised how many different varieties of lavender exist and how diverse the genus actually is. I eventually settled upon ‘Old English’ and ‘Grosso’ varieties to start my lavender garden off. Clearly, I’d be back for many more, as long as they grew well. I also purchased two pots of mint – ‘Eau de Cologne’ and ‘Berries and cream’ – and the wild flowers, two cornflower and two forget-me-not seedlings. I have to say that two months later all eight plants are not only thriving, but are doing exceptionally well. What I didn’t get chance to do on my first couple of visits was wander around the lavender fields. Hence the visit earlier this week. The only disappointment (and this was only slight) was that I’d expected vast swathes of blue flowers to fill the horizon – it’s still a little early for that, so I fully intend to return in about a month to capture that glorious sight, which I fully expect to be utterly spectacular! It’s just a matter of timing of course.
What I did see was more than exquisite though. The plot is large – not gargantuan, spreading for miles and miles, but definitely large enough to spend a good hour or two simply wandering among the flowers. There’s a very helpful map on the fence as you enter the gardens, which might have been a good idea to peruse a little more carefully before setting off. But, you know me, dear reader, and are fully aware of the the fact that I am occasionally somewhat tempestuous and impulsive, so you won’t be surprised to find that I made a bee-line for ‘The Wold’s Largest Bee-hive’ to see the precious pollinators busily making our (Pooh Bear’s and me that is) favourite preserve – honey. I had mis-read the sign as ‘The World’s Biggest Bee-hive’, but my enthusiasm wasn’t dampened by the marginally reduced grandeur of reality – the hive was busy with many hundreds of workers and the queen, contrary to popular belief I think, was getting down to the task of being queen bee very effectively. A family of swallows kept zooming in and out too – their nest was high up in the roof of the hive, an unusual location for sure!
The Drying Shed caught my eye and didn’t disappoint upon investigation. Such beautiful machinery! Charming ‘Olde-worlde’ artefacts, including a magnificent wall-clock and some antique examples of long-forgotten lavender products nestled on a wooden shelf, with (what I think might be) a Green Man carving keeping a watchful eye over all the distilling proceedings.
Just outside the Drying Shed sits a glorious pond, with gently trickling water providing a home for some large koi carp (or they could just be big goldfish – I’m not a fish expert at all!). Chinese Feng Shui would dictate that there should be eight of these, but I don’t think I counted as many as that.The pond also hosted some magnificent waterlilies and the ubiquitous puddle of coins that people throw in to ‘make a wish’.
Surrounding the pond gorgeous lavender bushes sit alongside a mound of peerless poppies, resplendent in their roaring redness against the powder blue sky. I began to relax a little, just from the tinkling water as it flowed under the little bridge separating two halves of the pond.
Next we wandered around the rows of lavender in various stages of growth. In about a month, these will be incandescent with the lilac-blue flowers and the scent then may well be overpowering, although I suspect I’ll still enjoy the experience! Nevertheless, the plants already attract the hard-working bees and beautiful butterflies, giving the whole arena a gentle buzzing as a mellifluous background noise. I relaxed a little more.
After crossing the miniature train lines, we spotted a little bridge, as the paths entwined around the acreage.
Meandering along these stunningly simple tracks led me to find some really fine examples of wildflowers, growing profusely together, harmoniously creating an oasis of tranquility that I felt I simply must bring my children and grandchildren to see and experience – it’s truly a wonderful trip.
I spotted a butterfly, bright blue in colour, flitting inconsequentially between the many cornflowers – I managed to snap it, with a tiny little thrill as I did. It turns out that it’s a simple Common Blue butterfly, which is apparently widespread across the British Isles, but I’ve never seen one up close and personally like this before and was simply delighted that the little chap was happy to pose perfectly for my pictures!
We found a bee who was clearly on a mission – he only stopped to collect nectar from blue flowers. There were thousands of daisies, buttercups, poppies, thistles and of course lavender florets for him to explore, but he was single-minded in his vocation… cornflowers. Cornflowers and only cornflowers. None of these other flowers would do. He was fascinating to watch!
Fortunately for me, at least, one of his fellow pollinators was less fussy. I watched him settle upon the yellow, pollen-laden stamen of a large Bellis Perrenis (that’s a daisy to you and me!) and took my chance… I think he looked at me briefly as I clicked away, but he was dedicated to his task. I’m sure he wasn’t ‘workin’ the lens’ but I think I can be forgiven for imagining that he was when I looked through my pictures later on the computer screen. Finally, I had a possible shot for the OGBF Photography Competition!
Keeping watch all over the proceedings are numerous statues and bird-scarers. They are elegantly artistic edifices in their own right, but placed in these particular situations, they seem comforting and natural, almost blending in with their surroundings. There are classical scantily-clad nymphs, natural sculptures of gigantic deer and ironwork dinosaur skeletons to accompany you on your stroll around the flowers.
A large pond sits in a landscaped dip almost in the centre of the flowers, with a lovely arboreal seat, which I imagine must provide most of the water to irrigate the plants with – like an enormous water-butt!
We didn’t have time this time to walk all the way round (real-life pressing in on our Utopian experience), but could also see an area set aside for children (of all ages!) to play with large versions of popular board games – chess, connect four, etc. It’s tantalizingly visible from most of the paths and would definitely encourage my little ones to keep going until they reached them – what a genius idea!
With time running short we returned to the entrance, but couldn’t pass the ice-creams without indulging. They were heavenly! I cannot recommend the place highly enough – if you are ever in the area, you simply MUST stop by and spend a little time in the tranquil environment. The restorative properties of lavender and wildflowers so beautifully managed are immeasurable. You won’t regret it I hope you’ve enjoyed my photos – I’ve used a few to manipulate into images with a new perspective, which if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll be familiar with my orbs already. Take a look at this short slideshow of my Wolds Way Lavender Orbs show… and then, thanks for reading!