The midsummer narrows

We hurtled to midsummer this year and nature has been running ahead of us all the way, reclaiming its territory.

In the Hirsel woods the paths between the ferns have dwindled to the narrowest strip, brambles swarming across, ready to tug at unwary ankles. In places, the nettles have reached shoulder height. Mum and I have taken to walking Indian file, hands on our heads in the manner of commandos to avoid the fiercest of the stingers on bare arms. Bright sunbursts of doronicum light up shady corners below the rhododendrons and, where the storm took down a huge stand of trees in the winter, there is now a field of giant foxgloves and thistles, dotted with ladybirds. Squirrels, warming up for the autumn harvest, have been spotted thumbing their noses at Lyra from the tall branches.

The walk by the river in Norham is now a tunnel between huge banks of comfrey. It is a mass of every shade of blue and mauve and hums and buzzes with industrious bees. On our last stroll there were two families of swans on the river. The mothers were solicitously ushering their cygnets along the riverbank whilst the fathers patrolled together. Like amiable PC’s (of the Dickson of Dock Green variety rather than the Sweeney) they paddled up and down, peering at fishermen and swimming dogs. Valerian, daisies and poppies were basking contentedly in the reflected heat of the churchyard wall and the sharp sweet tang of elderflower cut through the sultry air (Anne next door has delivered her first bottle of cordial and advises supplies are good – along our lane I can see buds forming on the meadowsweet so I shall hopefully return the favour with some of my own in a few weeks).

In the hedgerows delicate but deadly hemlock is replacing the cow parsley and muscular biceps of hogweed are erupting into surprisingly refined lacy plates. A shower of rain is to turn cracked tractor tyre ruts into gardens of wild marjoram and pineapple weed. Around the fields we have a new game. The grassaround one of the drainage ditches is now waist high. Lyra runs through just ahead, making a path for me to follow. It is so exciting her path forms crazy loops and whorls and I emerge at the end covered in burrs and seeds

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