Posted by: Ross Gardner | June 29, 2011

Simple Pleasures

Field Poppy (Papaver rhoeas). Copyright 2011 Ross Gardner

Reading the likes of Richard Jefferies,  a nature writer of the end of the nineteenth century, one wonders quite what he would make of the current plight of so much of our farmland wildlife.  He wrote of wheat fields spangled with Field Poppy and Cornflower, and of field with more singing skylarks hovering over them than almost he could count.  The very idea that the Yellowhammer should actually become a scarce bird in some parts of the country would I’m sure, to a naturalist of Jefferies’ time, seem quite absurd.  Yet, this is where we find ourselves today, in the name of modern farming.

It was a rare treat, therefore, that a recent trip to Suffolk should offer a few very enjoyable glimpses of these better times past and which will hopefully,  some day return.  It was the first time in a good while that as I walked the footpaths near Sudbury that I could count the Yellowhammer singing from the hedges.  Often these were hedges or, in their absence, verdantly grasssed banks, that were satisfyingly varied in plant life.  This include the creamy spikes of Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), glowing yellow Perforate St John’s-wort (Hypericum perforatum) and the rich pink of Common Centuary (Centaurium erythraea).  Often they were enlivened with the dark brown flutter of Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) butterflies and the orange buzz of Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris).

Larkspur (Consolida ajacis). Copyright 2011 Ross Gardner

Among the crops the flags of Field Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) seemed liberally scattered, striking among the ripening green cereals, or the golden brown of those nearing a harvest.  A wonderful surprise awaited in the corner of one field.  Among the scattered poppies were other flowers.  Tubular pink Common Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis) blooms dusted the bare ground, beside clumps of pale yellow Field Pansy (Viola arvensis).  And among them were the proud blue spikes of Larkspur (Consolida ajacis), a beautiful plant and something of a rarity too.  Strange when you think about it, that a collection of arable ‘weeds’ in the corner of a field should equate to such an unexpected delight.

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