Friday, April 26, 2013

River Ter

Last sunny day yesterday, so we went out to the pub for a ploughman's, it was also a treat for me, knitting and finishing a sweater for my love! This little river always calms my soul, the old giant willows lining its banks and then toppling across as old age finally gets them.  The first thing to strike driving along the lanes is how much water is still coming off the land, there has been no significant rain for about three weeks now.  Many of the fields are still brown soil not sown with seeds, I suppose because of the late cold weather.
What draws me to this insignificant river heaven knows, compared to a Welsh river tumbling over the rocks there is no comparison, I suspect it is the graceful willows and the old oak, still not in leaf, though driving in this limited countryside that beautiful fresh pale green flush can be seen everywhere, spring has truly arrived.
Blackthorn blossom strides through the hedgerows like lace, and in the field we heard our first skylark, rising up to the sky with its beautiful indignant song as we must have disturbed its nesting place in the field, as always, higher and higher till it seems to disappear into the blue.
The garden birds have settled to nesting, our noisy male blackbird sits quietly in the maple now, his mate found and presumably sitting on some eggs, and the collared doves bill quietly there.  Bumblebees have arrived thank goodness, hunting for nesting places in the shed or woodpile, they love mouse holes, that little bit of hay in the mouse's nest seems to make them happy.  Sadly we have no mice, but do have a hedgehog under the shed, who is out and about this last week or so; not seen him/her but  leaves traces behind, this is the one I rescued from the public footpath in Autumn, although there has normally been one living under the shed for years, so it might one and the same, very young though....

The Ter, you can see in the distance flooding of the field

Blackthorn blossom

The view from the Cats pub, across an oil seed rape field
Emerging White deadnettle 
I love white deadnettle, it has a creamy white texture and its hooded flower is loved by bees, so on looking it up in The Englishman's Flora (this by the way is the book I would take to my desert island) I find Grigson whittling away on dead/dumb/deaf nettles, of course we all know why because it doesn't sting like its superior cousin Urtica/nettle - devil's playthings. 
The naming system of such wildflowers devolves often from a religious background, wicked stinging plants are assigned to the devil, useful/pretty plants become 'angelic.
Well in  Grigson's tale of this common wild plant we have it called 'Adam and Eve in the bower'
turn the plant upside down, and beneath the white lip of the corolla, Adam and Eve, the black and gold stamens, lie side by side like two human figures.
Grigson goes on to describe the flower....But the flowers also have a great charm of shape, colour and texture, from the time they lie like soft knobs within the long green teeth of the calyx.  The knob is formed by the upper lip, curled over before its expansion.  When it does expand into the hood. look at it with the bare eye or with a lens, see how it is felted and fringed with soft white hairs, like a moth.
A beautiful botanical description, not quite before the time of television but it does teach us to use our eyes more.
Whilst writing this, a poem came to mind it is by Edward Thomas and called 'Lob' a mythical figure.  The poem is very long and written in 1917 but captures that dusty chalk Wiltshire during WW1 and before, the simplistic naming of the landscape, the old English history that runs like a thread through the landscape and the minds of the country folk, picking up different coloured threads and stitching them into the tapestry of fields and woods.  


  1. I agree about white dead nettle - much nicer than the pink one. Regarding your river, there's something calming and serene about it that is underrated when compared with rushing water over boulders like we also have here. I often seek out a slower moving area upstream for that reason. I think it looks lovely.

  2. It is a very unkempt little river, all the fields are arable, so there is a lot of nitrogen around the edges, which of course means great stretches of stinging nettles ;)