The L-shaped group of fields north of the A40 that I wrote about in February looked desolate for many weeks, once the sheep had cropped them to their bare bones and departed. (Their lambs can now be seen in some of the fields farther towards Church Hanborough.)
Then came the long spell of unusually dry weather, which left much of the L-shape looking like the Utah Canyonlands without the canyons, not least because of the dose of herbicide it received last autumn. The brutal flailing of the hedgerows added to the dead-looking landscape. It was rather depressing.
Slowly, however, the fields are turning green. Some turnips are growing again – I am not sure whether that is the plan – interspersed with low, hardy plants such as speedwell and red dead-nettles. A kestrel has been hovering over the area, and a skylark. It is hard to see how the barely ankle-length vegetation can provide enough cover for the kestrel’s prey or the skylark’s nest, but they must think so. The swallows that have just reappeared may be skimming these fields soon.
Meanwhile, along the ancient footpaths wildflowers are again abundant. The names of some I don’t know, but others I do, among them:
Mother Shimble’s Snick-Needles
Just one of over a hundred local names
for stitchwort, of the ‘greater’ kind, encountered
along the margins of Spring; the ‘lesser’ is
as the name implies. Old Avery can tell
them apart but won’t pick them for a posy.
Not because some called them the devil’s flower,
elf-shot, concealing adders around their stems;
nor to avoid violating country law
and their floral virginity – colerette
de la Vierge, Our Lady’s little collar;
but because, no longer used for pain relief,
they are best left where they are, a white delight
for the downcast eyes of pensive passers-by.