On the south-facing slopes of Brading down is the Adgestone Vineyard. It is an idyllic spot, sheltered by the undulations of the land as it slopes down towards the impressive arch of Sandown Bay. From here you can look out across the fields and the ocean, Ventnor downs rising in the distance to the south, Culver Cliff and Bembridge Harbour to the east.
The vineyard produces three very nice wines, one white and two red. It also has a lovely little café, with a wooden veranda interlaced with vines. It is one of my favourite spots on the Island. There is nothing quite like sitting and drinking coffee looking up over the lines of vines, the land edged on both sides by wind-breaks of large poplar trees whose leaves sing constantly in the breezes. It is such a peaceful place.
Today we ate lunch there. Buzzards coasted the tree covered summit of the downs, occasionally floating out on the thermals across the vineyard, spreading their wing tips with all the ease of a creature at one with the subtle shifts in current, the air the most perfect of companions in the most elegant of dances.
About half a mile or so to the east, through a small gap in the trees, the red, living plant roof of the building that houses the excavated Roman Villa can be seen. Its own undulating shape blends in beautifully with the surrounding fields. The Villa’s stunning mosaics hint at its own ancient vineyards. The current vineyard may well have been in the exact spot of the Romano British one, the sheltered south-facing aspect perfect for growing grapes. I love this thought, the sense of continuity making those ancestors appear very close in their connection to present day Islanders. They, like we, were blessed by the Island’s abundance and I feel such a sense of gratitude that this bounty continues to thrive and bless us.
At this time around the solstice, the Island is stunningly beautiful. There has been such an abundance of honeysuckle, its deliciously sweet fragrant flowers interweaving their creamy, red-tinged petals throughout mile upon mile of hedgerow. At the noon of the year, I perceive the Goddess as Lady of life’s abundant blessings. Here, in her local expression, she is the rich red earth, the fertile ground of my being; the explosion of life, colour and joy that enraptures my senses and feeds my body and spirit. She is the heady scent of rose and the pungent thick muskiness of elder flower; the cool peace of forests and the exhilarating skies of downland; she is a field of poppies and corn chamomile vibrant with the sun. She blesses us with the vital rains, lush rivers and wetlands teeming with life; the deep wells and sparkling springs; she is the moon and the ever-changing tides; the hem of her gown the vast ocean, its salt water helping to cleanse and heal our wounds. I call the Solstice Goddess the Mother of Sweetness; she is the keeper of the abundant and overflowing chalice of life that renews and nourishes, and her cup is the place within us that can never run dry. Each animal and plant, each drop of water, each clod of earth is radiant with her spirit. She is the ecstasy of the earth and when we open to her, each cell brightens with the strength of her love.
At this time I also view the God as Father of the Solstice Sun. For me, is not only the growing heat that warms and comforts but also the lush greenery that is irresistibly drawn by that glowing light. Through him we engage with the joy in our hearts; he is that bright gasp of knowing how good it is to be alive. His spark of life burns deeply within us, opening us to the inspiration that enables us to live our time here in love and happiness. When we open to him we are filled with his strength of spirit, the burning delight of his creative power. His heat makes fertile the body of the Goddess; his light sparkling upon her surfaces. At this time of the rich fullness of the year, he is the sun to her moon; the fire to her water. She reflects him lovingly and soothes him when he grows too hot; he warms her cool depths and stirs her passions. Together they nourish, nurture and bring all life to fruition; from the ecstasy of their union all life comes. As life swells into the sensual abundance of summer, from the Goddess’s Chalice all blessing abundantly pour, each one shining with his golden spirit.
At this time it is good to count one’s blessings; to acknowledge and gives thanks for those things that enrich our lives; the people, the experiences, the simple but blissful moments of watching buzzards and drinking coffee.