A walk on the wild side

The doughty agents of Wildflower Patrol ambled along the river yesterday, checking on developments. The sun was shining and there was hardly a breath of air as we left the house so, after much discussion and humming and hawing, intrepid Agent Aunty Granny took the bold step of leaving her polar fleece behind. It seems we are on Summer’s doorstep….

Our riverside walk cuts a swathe of silver edged green through planes of yellow oil seed rape and the air was heavy with its musky perfume. The river was slow and still, the ducks sculling idly for once. The absence of wind had also brought out the midges (but thankfully they only bit mum – all that winter thermal wrapping must tenderise the skin) and these, in turn, had brought out fish and fishermen and a wheeling cacophony of gulls (the only lively action on a snoozy, warm day). This is the time for tiny plants to find their way through the grass before it goes “Harry mental”. Everywhere along the verges there were frothy billows of the palest pink cuckoo flower and shining white stitchwort. Where the grass was thinner, pale blue cats’ eyes (speedwell), purply blue ground ivy and custard yellow crosswort were weaving their way through. (NB curiously, in double checking crosswort is indeed the furry yellow plant I had in mind, I discovered that it is a member of the coffee family. Definitely a third cousin…..). The larger, bolder plants of summer were still marshalling their resources for the big push up and out. Velvetty rosettes of comfrey leaves, lacey whorls of cow parsley and bright green clumps of campion were soaking up the sun, with only a few tentative flower spikes testing the air. Whin bushes on the steeper banks positively hummed with honey bees, whilst sending out glorious wafts of coconut. In the shady detour past the last of the fishing beats the wild garlic was going over, exploding into myriad translucent beads, and the cuckoo pint was sending up tightly furled unicorn horns which will uncurl into the palest of pale green spathes around knobbly green flower spikes in week or two.

Today, with Lachlan tagging along as a rookie patrol member, we set out for the Hirsel woods. In the morning, for a sunny drive to the butchers, I had gone so far as to put on a summer frock, loafers and my shades (it was positively Miami Vice all the way to Norham…). By walk o’ clock (delayed to allow Lachlan a post breakfast snoozette) it was a little cooler but I decided to risk it anyway and just topped off the look with the home made Nursery Curtain gilet (which is sadly looking a bit past it and may need to be replaced. Thankfully I still have the other curtain!). A light breeze kicked in just as we entered the woods and I was sporting not a few goosebumps when Mum smugly disclosed that she had sneakily redonned her thermals whilst Lachlan tested the sofa. So much for solidarity…

In the shade of the woods ferns are emerging to take over from the daffodils. I love their crazy whorls and whirligigs. There are a few blue bells by the path (much nibbled at the edges by the rabbits and deer), but most are yet to flower, so that’s a treat yet to come and at the margins and in sunny clearings colonies of primroses and cowslips shine through a foam of forgetmenots.

We broke our walk with lunch at the Cafe and came back the long way round taking the track back into the woods that runs through the golf course. We passed a group of holiday makers dressed, as Lachlan put it, like Andy McNab, with action shoes, back packs, walking staffs and a map. The juxtaposition of me striding past in white tennis frock, flowery loafers and hot air balloon design gilet, airily swinging a paper shopping bag of goodies from the shop was not lost on the group. However, any sense of superiority was lost ten minutes later when Lyra, who had been bringing up the rear, suddenly shot past me, in the process ripping the bottom half of the bag clean off scattering jumbo bags of pheasant flavoured crisps and frozen pigeon breasts (the usual mid walk shop) in all directions. We forgave her, as we always do, and later when she stood silently nibbling the grass whilst we watched three young deer climb the bank behind us it was agreed that she was a very good dog indeed.

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