Monday, 08 August 2022

Delights of bright spring morning and some not-so-welcome sights

Delights of bright spring morning and some not-so-welcome sights

IT is a lovely, temperate morning, full of clear, bright sunlight.

I love dawn and dusk in spring when so much happens either side of the increasingly longer days, especially birdsong.

I take a stroll through the trees in our back garden, which are now in full leaf.

A pair of collared doves glance down, lovebirds cooing away.

Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) are coming into full bloom and how lovely they look with their pinky-purple corollas.

I love the way that a bumblebee disappears into one flower, making a buzzy racket, and then moves on to the next like a drunk going from pub to pub.

I love the Spanish name for the plant, dedalera, which means a resemblance to a thimble from “dedal”. The Portuguese is “dedaleira”, the French, “digitale” and the Welsh “llwynogod”.

Rosemary has to visit the doctor in Caversham so we go on foot via Balmore Walk towards the surgery.

Some recently planted tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) have been senselessly vandalised. On a happier note, the hedgerow between the allotments and parkland that many years ago I recommended be planted to deter vegetable thieves looks lovely. (Thanks to our friend Dave Kenny for making it happen.)

It is largely comprised of hawthorn, field maple and hazel and now looks as if it has always been a fixture.

There are some standout individual trees that have been allowed to grow without hindrance. They include hornbeam and common lime with a section of laid hedge. Country practice in an urban environment. Excellent.

Heading back from the surgery, we stop to admire vast swathes of creamy-flowered cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) with heavenly scent at the base of a steep slope.

There is an abundance of red clover (Trifolium pratense) and meadow buttercups (Ranunculus acris) on just a scrape of thin soil over the barely disguised chalk underneath.

It would be nice to introduce some other suitable plants to enhance the summer displays. Common bird’s-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia), hound’s-tongue (cynoglossum officinale) and lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum) spring to mind. All these probably grew here a long time ago.

When we reach the crest, we see that most of the grassland has been scalped, which is so unnecessary. This land could be wondrous but now it’s just a dedicated dogs’ lavatory. I despair.

Rosemary and I will gather seeds from plants in nearby territory, toss them with abandon with the help of a breeze and see what happens. I’m continually amazed by nature’s ability to colonise any spare space at will.

Back home, we take a look at our small pond. Many common blue damselflies (Enallagma cyathigerum) are hunting over the water. Pencil thin, they move with speed. They may look innocuous but predators they are and quite deadly experts.

Last night, I heard a distinct plop and saw a large ripple on the water’s surface. I hope it was the first frogs making a comeback.

On the way to a shopping trip in Henley, we take a small diversion by way of Woodland Road and stop for a brief walk in Harpsden Wood.

We’ve always liked it here as it has a magic quality, a genuine feeling of antiquity and, how can I put it, a sylvan embrace.

We are happy to reacquaint our friendship with the friendly trees on this sparkly morning.

I love the mix of trees here, silver birch, pedunculate oak, beech, field maple, ash, goat willow, holly, hawthorn, cherry and large-leaved lime.

The wood, as ever, is full of birdsong, scent and flying insects.

Some fallen trees from the last strong gales will decay over the years to return nutrients to the soil. I always find this a sad sight but it is part and parcel of the natural world. Our planet looks after itself.

A red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidaries) scrambles through springy moss at our feet.

Some of the silver birch trees have strange-looking growths and odd trunks. Nature is full of surprises.

A long-dead cherry is now home to some nuthatches. Towards the top of the now defunct trunk the parents go in and out of an old woodpecker’s hole to feed their chicks.

They have patched up the entrance with mud to make sure that they are undetected by adversaries. They must see us but seem somewhat ambivalent. We pose no threat.

We get home to see our four cats toying with a bank vole that they have managed to bring into the house. It sits with nonchalance as it cleans its face, so adorable.

Rosemary grabs an old saucepan and lid and somehow manages to capture the little mite and release it at the bottom of our garden. We do love our cats but they can be naughty.

vincent.ruane@hotmail.com

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