With the hedgerows aglow and the leaves turning it proved impossible to resist these two prints when we visited Waterside Antiques in Ely a few weeks ago.
They depict two of my favourite hedgerow plants: black bryony with its heart-shaped leaves, and jewelled deadly nightshade. Perhaps my fascination with these berry be-decked vines stems from poring over Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairy illustrations as a child; after all these two Flower Fairies of the Autumn happen to be two of her drawings that I love best. It is through her books that I learnt to recognize many common British flowers and plants.
Once framed these colourful prints will hang in a spare bedroom, where they have a special job to do.
The bedroom, at the front of the house, with its views out over rooftops to the woods on the horizon, emitted a benevolent pull when we came to view the property. It was decorated in an old-fashioned wallpaper covered in wild strawberries, red clover, liverwort, and potentilla against a ditsy green and red background.
Although not a wallpaper I would ever have chosen, the addition of crisp white sheets, a bright red throw, red gingham curtains or green ticking stripe blinds, and white painted furniture could have made this a charming guest room . . . had we decided to leave the house as it was.
Instead, it was sacrificed as part of the building project; running a corridor through it, the only way to add to the underweight upstairs of the house. And so the room has been reduced in size, its doorway moved (never under-estimate the difference that changing an entrance makes), and the wallpaper is gone. Stripping away both it and the plaster beneath revealed a blocked fireplace at the far end of the room, a glimpse of a past life that will never be seen again.
With the building work over I am determined to restore some of the bedroom’s old feel. It’s not there yet, but these two fairy fellows promise to help bring back some of that old-fashioned charm and gentle air.