Earth and sky

Brenda writes: “Today Steve was recording but I was able to get out and do one of my favourite walks from home. But first of all, which speedwell was it yesterday? I consulted the description in my Collins field guide: ‘mat forming’ – yes…..’leaves kidney-shaped, bluntly toothed, stalks short’ – yes…..’pedicels (stalks of flowers) much longer than leaves’ – yes…..and the clincher; ‘corolla (petals of flower) purplish blue’ – yes…..slender speedwell it is!

slender speedwell

However I have to say that the Collins guide botanical drawings are poor (not a good start for ‘The most complete guide to the flowers of Britain and Ireland’), whereas Marjory Blamey’s, in the older guide I mentioned yesterday, are excellent (we looked her up online – she was born in 1918, was considered by many to be one of the best artists in the world for botanical drawings, received an MBE, and died in 2019 aged 101!).

But back to my walk, one which I really enjoyed during lockdown. At the top of Market Lane in Wells there is a track that runs up the side of the cemetery with hedges on either side. In gaps in the hedge and gateways there are views across the fields in all directions. At the top of the hill is a crossroads by a house called Cuckoo Lodge. On the OS map this spot has the sinister name ‘gallows hill’. If you turn left the track takes you towards the village of Warham but sadly doesn’t go right into the village so to get there you have to walk on the road. I usually go straight across towards Wighton and today, without a deadline, I went as far as the cemetery on the edge of the village. Another 20 minutes would take me through the village to the Carpenter’s Arms for refreshments – I must do that one day! [only if I can come too – Steve]

Cuckoo Lodge

When I first discovered this walk there was the most wonderful overgrown woodland beyond Cuckoo Lodge teeming with life and full of birdsong as spring advanced. And then to my horror it was all felled and the land cleared – turned into a wasteland. Thankfully the woodland at the bottom of the hill was spared. Nature is resilient and a variety of wild flowers took advantage of the increased light so it looks a bit better now. It has also been replanted with a mix of species although at the moment the holly, elder and brambles are making much more progress than the saplings inside their green plastic tubes. I can’t see that the timber harvested could possibly have covered the cost of the operation and I still don’t understand why this rich habitat was destroyed!

Three raptor species today – a kestrel hovering, several buzzards and a red kite. It was lovely to see lots of brown hares in the fields, and I saw quite a few grey partridge. I learned to identify their call whilst walking these tracks during lockdown: I was curious to find out what was making the weird calls in the fields – and by finding the bird and identifying it I was able to match the call to the bird. A couple of jays in flight today was nice too, although there were not many small birds around. However very soon these hedges will be full of life as spring takes hold. The fields are being ploughed at the moment and the dark earth below a threatening sky was impressive.”

“And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house” (Richard III – Shakespeare)

As Brenda mentioned I was in the studio all day today working on my new album, so the only wildlife contact I had was editing one of the pieces for the CD, written by my friend Rowan Alfred, which is based around a field recording I made of cuckoos calling at Lakenheath Fen a few years ago!

New species for February 2nd:
Flowers: slender speedwell

Birds = 114
Moths = 2
Wildflowers = 12