Lockdown Nature Notes 5

Aren’t we lucky! What a joy it was to be out in the sunshine last week, albeit nearer to home than we might otherwise have chosen. Hang on to that memory during this coming week which promises to be cooler and wetter and not so enticing for walking. But at least our gardens will benefit.

It was a great week for smells. Together with the Balsam Poplar (there was a good one along the towpath), Hawthorn, Bluebells and Ramsons were all offering their different “perfumes”. Add to that the garden Lilacs and Wisteria and you could have a very fragrant walk. Another, perhaps less attractive scent, comes from the leaves of Hedge Woundwort which is now vigorously growing in hedgerows and alongside some lanes. In fact, the edges of lanes and roads provide interesting habitats and it’s surprising how many varieties of plants you can find in what can’t be a very hospitable environment. Not only are there seedlings of Ash, Elm and Field Maple but, amongst  others, Cleavers (with tiny white flowers at the moment), Green Alkanet which is having a fabulous year, Greater Celandine, Shiny Cranesbill, Cow Parsley, Hogweed, Ground Elder, Herb Robert, Herb Bennet and, of course various Sowthistles, Dandelions and Daisies. I have also come across tiny clumps of Common Cornsalad, (Valerianella locusta), a pretty little plant in the Valerian family. Rather confusingly, this plant is also known as Lamb’s Lettuce (it has been suggested this is either because it appears round about lambing time or because it is a favourite food of lambs) but bears very little resemblance to the Lambs Lettuce we find in supermarkets. Certainly you’d need an awful lot of the wild variety to make even a mouthful. Mrs Grieve struggles to say anything very interesting about it apart from the cultivated plant being a favourite salad plant in France where one of its names is Salade de Prêtre because it is generally eaten in Lent.

Whitethroats are appearing in greater numbers now and you can hear Reed Buntings along the towpath. Some lucky people have heard Cuckoos and seen Swifts and Swallows but so far the Godalming contingent hasn’t arrived – well, not down this end of Godalming anyway. However, recent walks have provided several Blackcaps, a surprising number of Grey Wagtails and, now and again, Tree Creepers. The Buzzards must be nesting as they’ve more or less disappeared from the scene for the moment leaving the skies to a patrolling Red Kite which is becoming a very common sight. 

Have a happy week and let’s hope some relaxation of the lockdown isn’t too far away. 

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