WELCOME

This blog is dedicated to Malta - my island home. My aim is not to bore you with history but to share my thoughts and a few facts together with a photo or two. For a more in -depth background of the island please go here. The purpose of this blog is not to point out the short-comings of the island. There are plenty that do that already. My wish is to show you the beauty of an island at the cross roads of the Mediterranean, a melting pot of history; a place where fact and fiction are sometimes fused to create unique myths and legends; a country that has been conquered so many times that our culture is a mish mesh of the lands that surround us and of lands far away. I confess that my greatest desire is to make you fall in love with this tiny enchanting island.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Country Roads

Winter countryside (58)

 

Do you want to take a walk with me along some pretty country roads? I am sure that Nature will show us some of her wonders – like these golden crown daisies; clumps of borage and blooming asphodel.

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We’ll see trees, still leafless and forlorn, and others that have burst into colourful blooms and blossoms.

Winter countryside (40)

Winter countryside (69)

In bare branches, empty nests wait for new eggs to be laid and in the undergrowth, silent snails leave a shimmering, silvery path as they slither up stalks – perhaps to feel the warmth of the sun?

Winter countryside (37)

We’ll hear the song of the birds and the gurgling of little streams. A few bees and butterflies might buzz around our head as all of Nature waits for the signal that will herald the exuberant growth of soon-coming Spring.

Winter countryside (55)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cape Sorrel: The Weed That Brightens Up Our Winters

Winter countryside (9)

From mid-December to mid-April our fields and country lanes come alive with a wild flower the colour of sunshine. During these months, Cape Sorrel grows free and unrestrained. But things were not always like this. This plant was introduced to the Mediterranean from South Africa by an English lady around 200 years ago. The story goes that a few plants were grown in the greenhouses at Argotti Botanical Gardens. Somehow some seeds managed to escape and found the perfect climate and terrain to proliferate. From Malta, this pretty wild flower spread throughout the region. I found a good article by Leslie Vella on Malta Inside Out which goes into  more detail about this – you can read it here.

View from our window (3)

Although this plant was not always indigenous to the Maltese islands, it has adapted so well and become so common-place that few people so much as give it a second glance. Indeed, it can be a bit of a nuisance when it takes over cultivated fields and gardens and has to be pulled out or it will suffocate any seedlings attempting to grow.

With that peculiar Maltese penchant of re-naming everything under the sun, this wild-flower is called ‘l-ingliza’ – which means the English one, or in this case, the English weed. Children also call it ‘qarsu’ (which means sour) because it is not uncommon to find kids chewing the flower stalks and they are indeed very sour. I am speaking from experience here.

Winter countryside (11)

Like so many things in nature, these pretty flowers come and go effortlessly. No fanfare greets their arrival. It is as if we wake up one morning and the set has been changed. Suddenly our eyes open up to the simple beauty surrounding us as, for a few month, our fields seem to reflect the sunbeams.

Winter countryside (25)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Red And Regal

St Agatha & Hal-Bajjada (35)-1

I love these old post boxes which you can find here and there in many of our old village cores. This particular one is probably about 50 years old. When Malta still formed part of the British Empire the post boxes were inscribed with the Royal Cypher of the reigning monarch. This particular post box was manufactured during the reign of the current Queen Elizabeth. However there are post boxes which are inscribed with the cyphers of other monarchs. These post boxes are even older than the one in the picture. Once Malta gained its independence from Britain the new post boxes no longer carried the royal cypher. However, they are still painted red and are definitely hard to miss even on the greyest of days.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Enjoying The Countryside At Chadwick Lakes

There are no naturally occurring lakes or rivers in Malta although, in the winter time, a few streams can be found in most valleys. Chadwick Lakes are, in fact, a large reservoir built in the 1890s at the suggestion of British engineer Osbert Chadwick. Chadwick Lakes (34)

 

Chadwick Lakes (32)

However, being a valley, a stream of natural water does gurgle playfully downstream.

Chadwick Lakes (8)

Chadwick Lakes (9)

Chadwick Lakes (14)

This stretch of water provides a picturesque backdrop for picnics and the surrounding paths are ideal for a serene walk. The photos I am posting today were taken at the end of December and the blue skies and bright sunlight made it feel more like a spring day. However, the leafless silver birch trees were a reminder that it is not yet spring and the greenery and wild flowers are also indications that the weather is still on the cool side (I dare not say cold Smile).

Chadwick Lakes (6)

Once June comes along all the greenery that you see will be gone and arid land will be left in its place. The water too will dry up leaving a bed of hard, dry mud. So this simple beauty is transient and fleeting, like so many other things in Nature. I hope you’ll enjoy this little walk in our countryside  - it’s not very grand, I’m afraid. The island is too small for huge open spaces and it is something which a lot of us have a deep yearning for. So we make do with these little pockets of rural bliss.

Chadwick Lakes (12)Chadwick Lakes (15)

And, being Malta, there has to be that wacky little something that you won’t see in many other places. Now tell me, how many of you have seen silver birches (on the left of the photo) and cacti within a few metres of each other?

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