It turns out that what I thought might be a returning crop of turnips north of the A40, in the previous Note from the North, is in fact oilseed rape. The dry spring had retarded its growth, but it is now flowering and reaching a more respectable height, especially since the recent rain. It is still quite patchy, though.
Meanwhile, the new barns at Acre Hill Farm, built to replace the ones destroyed in an arson attack, are nearing completion. Closer to the A40, you may have noticed a large area of soil being cleared on the future Park and Ride site. This is not, however, the start of construction of the site itself, but the work of archaeologists, who are checking to see if there is anything of interest below the surface before it all gets tarmacked over. They say that they have not found much yet – a few pre-historic bits and pieces – but agree that Roman finds are likely to the east of Evenlode Farm.
Close to the City Farm ‘hamlet’, a large field has been ploughed in readiness for sowing with wildflowers, which should greatly increase local biodiversity. In the Local Wildlife Site just north of the brook and the parish boundary, in just a single moment I saw a muntjac, hare and (probably) two quails, as well as hearing the usual skylark. Walkers have been known to refer to the Site as the ‘the skylark field’. Another skylark seems to have decided that the middle of the oilseed rape, mentioned above, is a good enough place to be.
The fields of New Wintles Farm to the west of Lower Road have taken advantage of the absence, so far, of cattle to turn bright yellow with buttercups. A pretty spectacular sight if you have not yet seen it. I am not sure how long they will be so abundant.
But perhaps where spring growth is at its most lush and prolific is along the ancient bridleways that are called the Saltway and the Saxon Way in the plans for the ‘garden village’. This is what it’s like in parts of the Saxon Way:
To follow this footpath from East to West
is to find yourself momentarily
in the past – soon-to-be-berried blossom
where nettles both armed and non-combatant
brush shin and thigh, and cow parsley tickles
hip and shoulder, and insects form a loose
head-high pointillist pattern, and bird calls
leapfrog above or withstand your approach,
and unseen beyond the double hedgerow
lambs bleat or buttercups turn grass yellow.
To follow this footpath from West to East
is to witness a plausible future.