We set off round the reservoir track, intent on a catch up natter, suddenly three are joined by a fourth keen to add more chirrup and chatter. Little interloping cricket, be careful where you leap, we are pleased to meet you but we have secrets to keep. Besides this seems a more dangerous route, you’ll need to watch for every flying boot. Jump to the left now, back to the grass, we’ll agree to let your intrusion pass.
What is smaller than a wren? A fledgling wren for sure! I saw for myself by the river, I’d never met one before. Like a furious, fluffy pompom, squawking in the tree, frantic because its mother was on the other side of me. I didn’t want to prolong its panic so I quickly carried on but was gladdened by glimpse of small stubby tail and miniature raucous song.
The wooded track at the end of the village is steep and narrow to climb, growing closer still now as late July bracken towers over brambles that trip and prick. The dog tunnels under and we, like jungle explorers feel our way through the dense curtains of foliage all the way up to the top to tread the lighter green of grassy sheep fields, and see the far, rolling hills. We reach the farm track where suddenly, a riot of roses spill their friendly colour all over a dry stone wall, like a chocolate box picture of Summer hedgerow bliss. And I smile as I remember how the struggle to ascend is always worth it somehow.
We know his game for sure now – the shy retiring woodland buck, for we’ve caught him in the act. We’ve seen him leave his calm, canopied retreat, leaping up the track and back to the fray and fracas of warren life, the endless demands of the drove. I wonder how often he sneaks away, how long he gets for this downtime, and if the other rabbits know his secret shaded peace.
I wish I could conjure words to set the song of water, but no string of sibilant sounds can capture the constancy of luscious liquid white noise. Always by the river, flow serenades me still, whether carried in rush, ripple or fall, its noise quiets my soul. It’s the same by the sea, with the crash and the draw, Iike a raging lullaby that storms and soothes all fear away.
The first time I saw a mole I was beyond surprised, for they’d been so much bigger in my childhood mind’s eye. Pictures didn’t give me scale and stories evoked a sense of a creature more a rabbit’s size than of such diminutive length! And now the mole has shocked again with new biographical information, it turns out to have a super power – it’s a complete digging sensation! A full twenty metres each day they tunnel with tiny searching claws, just imagine how far you’d get as a human, if their talent was yours! Strange to think of them under us, practically whizzing around, subterranean superheroes hiding obscurely underground.
I watch a kestrel plummet from soaring high to valley’s depth – a staggering daredevil drop – and I wonder, is it all about the hunting? Or do they also feel the whoosh and thrill of flipping stomach when they fall? Like the rush of roller coaster dips that leave you hungry for the next ride.
When setting off across the path to make her home on better turf, I don’t imagine this tiny snail thought she’d be leaving earth. To keep her safe from tramping feet, we momentarily lifted her high, what a change from what she’d planned – temporary housing in the sky! We landed her back on her previous course, grounded and safe on pastures new, they say moving house is stressful, I hope it wasn’t traumatic too!
The fields are dressed for a summer fete, everyday green transformed by July best bonnets bright into rainbow-rich delight. And among all the bobbing, chattering heads, the Meadowsweet grows tall – offering its candy floss to the flowers, and to all.
I follow the footsteps of botanical explorers and press my fresh picked fern into deep Prussian blue. I trust the sun, the waiting, the water… and marvel how, with photography at my fingertips, this rediscovered technique of picture painting play can bring me utter joy. It grows now forever, an immortalised white fern on a cyan fabric square. But also yields its life, green to gradual curling, gingering, gently -furling – a perfect specimen captured in a small glass bottle. What was it like when this was newly all there was – great brave science recording with accuracy for perpetuity brand new exotic species from far flung lands? It must have seemed, as it half does now, something faintly fantastical, beauty, form, life – arrested on a page by powerful noon-day light.
Far from the colony, away from warren bustle, the woodland buck goes hunting all by himself, alone. He only knows what he forages for here, whether choice fallen fruits or simply peace not found at home. We see him often now exploring dappled dank forest floor, at ease with us watching him despite his introverted ways.
The light has dipped, the sun is low, invisible to us now. But somehow, in a rain free sky, a full and faultless cloudbow arcs high and muted bright above the gloaming light. In all my years of sunsets and rainbows, this is something I’ve never seen, and I linger in the garden to gaze at it longer, unsure if I’ll ever catch anything like it again. You never reach the end of creation’s wonders however long you live, no matter how far you explore; endless possibilities open, limitless beauties surprise and stagger as you walk your way over our broad green-brown-grey earth, and live out your days under its shifting grey-blue-pink skies.
Suddenly the potting shed transforms to Asian arbour as myriad jasmine stars begin to come to flower. I make a daily pilgrimage to breathe in their scent, green tea and sticky rice playing happily in my head. Upstairs in the bathroom draw, a Yardley soap with this essence is waiting to echo jasmine’s joy when summer’s no longer present.
Red sky at night, everyone’s delight. No matter what it foretells of promised sunnier spells, the magic’s in the moment where fuchsia and magenta brush and streak the setting gold. Never mind your landscape, your native fauna and flora, all of us share sunset gifts with their wide, bold wonder. I like that sense of unity – wherever your patch of sky, you’ll receive precious evenings draped in this vibrant high.
Today was a duet of sunshine and showers, alternating soakings over several hours. First one, then the other, now both in time together, a swirling, whirling dance of light counterpointing weather. Black cloud backdrops make for brighter spotlights on the hills, damp drizzle downpours all the more serving to fulfill the sweet feel of warmth as the choreography begins directing sunlight surges to drift and filter in. Down by the river is like a hothouse at Kew, close and heady with heavy mid afternoon dew. I choose to play along and get thoroughly drenched, then sit writing in dazzle on the swing bridge bench.
Not once, but twice this week now, I’ve spotted a spotted red bead against all conceivable odds among the long meadow grass. This second cousin of the first displayed pure acrobatics, ascending and descending green sheer vertical poles. The grass was dancing wildly as trees in gale force wind and it made me marvel still more at this ladybird circus act. When you appreciate the scale, this is extreme dare-devil sport – talent and technique shining hidden among the long meadow grass.
Today I saw a kestrel seeming floating on the breeze, looking, for all the world, totally at ease. But this sight transpired to be optical illusion, for the bird was not still but in constant motion. When they suspend they are really flying swiftly, matching speed to opposing currents completely. How do they judge an equation so precise – let alone while looking so far below for mice? Science and sorcery meet among the thermal winds, while we drive past and on towards town and prosaic things.
It was my turn in the bathroom but when I arrived a tiny creeping creature was already inside. I tried to reason with him saying, “Mr Woodlouse, if you want to take a shower, obey the rules of this house. You’ll need to wait in line, and when your time comes, you can’t share with a woman, that simply is not done.” Of course he ignored me, but he did go on his way, so my ablutions were kept private, hip, hip, hip hooray!
Like a needle in a haystack, the chance of seeing her there, one tiny red bead in the long meadow grass. But I spotted her spots and was instantly a child, compelled to feel her crawl through the blades of my fingers. Ladybird, ladybird, what a treat to find you, a tiny little gem on a weekday morning. You took some convincing to go back to your true stems, was it fun to meet a lady-human in the long meadow grass?
It’s funny who you meet on a Sunday morning amble, neighbours, tourists, friends, and then close by the brambles, a tiny trotting stoat with little white throat and vivid titian coat struts out into the road. It doesn’t stop to chat, it’s gone without a greeting, but it lights up my day, a brief but brilliant ginger meeting.
All across the meadow and down by the river, ringlets are rising in chocolate hued quivers. We try to get the angle right to find and study their rings, but they won’t stay still enough – they’re intent on flightier things.
The path was as wet as the river when we still set out to walk, intent on blowing out cobwebs and starting weekend talk. All was streaky watercolour green, everything leaking, seeping its seams, smudging and fast becoming indiscriminate haze. When suddenly, all in a rush, a tiny cobalt dart swiftly brushed the water to make a work of art. Its dazzling brilliance shone then, as quick, was gone. And we stood in the rain, unaware of its soaking, lost in kingfisher awe – a turquoise gift-wrapped moment.
Peppered round the dale, gardens, verges, moor, woods, river are little purple forests growing tall and fine. Miniature Scots pines swaying in the breeze, bending all their strength to ring their merry berry bells. Splashes of bright colour that always bring delight, whether weed or wild they’re welcome with me.
But who was the thinker and what was the thought that decided foxes’ fingers would fit in tiny petal sleeves? Foxgloves seem more suited to forming party hats for stoats but I’m not sure such renaming will catch on with many folks… So I’ll just allow my sketch to celebrate their beauty, and leave the etymology to heritage and dictionary!
Deep in the woods, among the dank of the dale, grow some curious fungi who have learnt how to scale the heights of ash and beech to spread their creeping reach into little elven shelving, and mushroom moths unfurling, all green streaked white and beige against brown, forest green and sage. Some even splay like goblin palms as if stretching out with no qualms about touching passing strangers to dissemble and disarm. I expect my fairy toadstools to dance in circles on the ground, but I’m quietly being enchanted by the bracket fungus I have found.
When I want a drink, I just turn on the tap. But nothing so pedestrian awaits this sparrow acrobat. Up on the conservatory roof, legs spread wide as a giraffe, he tilts and turns full upside down to take a simple draught – squeezing head through tiny gap, a limbo dancing ninja, goodness me, what circus act will he conjure during dinner?!
Is there anything more perfect than the moment I see the first sweet peas of summer winking back at me? This year they’re by the wayside, growing wild and free, a cacophony of colour tumbling over hedge and tree. They feel like garden runaways scaling fence, breaking boundary, I wonder where they’ll steal to next to share their cheer and glee.
Heaven sent moist bracken scent to stir my sense of wild. Childhood southern seaside chines in adult northern moorland wide chime, converge, collide. This is how adventure smells, the quest – descent or climb, England a borderless glasshouse, an exotic landscape to find.
Well intentioned phrases say, “look up”, “lift your head”, but sometimes there is beauty in looking down instead. Saturday’s walk was wet, my eyes were on the ground, I couldn’t see the stunning view but there was still treasure to be found. Strewn across the track, mixed with downtrodden grass, a thousand sugar sprinkles, discarded petal stars. Sweet fragrance in the air tells tales of their descent – It’s elderflower umbels for which they were meant. But tumbled here beneath me, each individual flower shines with a new and broken beauty those on the tree cannot find. And it makes me remember the brave wonder of this world, where the shattered and battered often transform into pure gold. So perhaps don’t be frightened to turn your gaze right down, there among the debris is something fresh and profound.
Yesterday was drenching but it still felt strange to see a heron walking like a person, up the lane. Far away from river, still not that close to beck, impossible to fathom what was going through its head. It was too far in front to photograph the stroll, which was disappointing as it looked rather droll. Best of all was the point it stopped to pause and wait, craning neck just high enough to snoop over Peter’s front gate!
The wind is rough, the thermals unsure, and stretched upon the wing, close to the house Red Kite rises and turns, is tossed, thrown and spun. A bird so often high and mighty is like its paper alias today, as if at mercy of current and string, as likely under as over – all spin. Less flying than surfing, more suspended than soaring, a wild adventure ride, Creature in its element, or element in its element? I’m left asking as both disappear.
Out on the terrace, near the curry leaves, a flower comes to bloom, delighting to deceive. Nestled at its heart among lily orange petals bright, an apparent chocolate truffle offers up a trickster’s delight!