Friday, 31 May 2013

Devon lanes in May

For the last few weeks, Marcia and I have been pottering around as she has been looking for and listening to the people who will, I have no doubt, dominate our household for the next few months during which we shall both get to know them better than our relatives and closest friends. What an odd business this is.

The tall people in the middle are antirrhinum. Around them are the white flowers of Little Mouse Ear and bottom left a few bluebells and there are a lot of other species in there too.

The bluebells are still with us. These are up on the moor beside a lane leading to Leusdon and are still in their prime. When we were down near the coast (a few hundred feet lower in a different world) they were just beginning to go over.
 Anyway, as we have pottered so we have revelled: the Devon lane in May is like nowhere else. For a few glorious weeks nature in all its glory unfolds itself not in some far distant place where you must travel and trek to find it but there, just there, beside the car as you travel about your daily business. Some, sad to say, never notice: their eyes are on what is to come (the shopping – fetching the children from school – the next business appointment – the next repair job – the next delivery). Not all miss out due to the hustle and bustle of life: we see people who stop for a few moments just taking it all in before setting off again. To some of these we speak and they have one thing in common – a thing we share: the need to connect even if only for a moment with that something outside ourselves that we give so many different names.

The yellow flowers belong to the white dead nettle. Bottom right the wild garlic (we call them ransoms). They smell wonderful on a hot day and, yes, you can use them in cooking.

A general view with scores of plants in view. The yellow ones are one of the hawkbits but I don't know which one (they might even be the related smooth hawk's-beard). The tiny blue flowers bottom left are speedwell.

Herb Robert (the same one as grows in North America where it is called  Robert Geranium) was used as a cure for toothache and nose bleeds. It has other names, too, such as "death come quickly" but why I have no idea. It is, of course, related to all the other geraniums.
There is a universal need to connect to nature which is why natural history programmes are so popular. I watch some of these too (usually in the depths of winter) but given the option of sitting in front of a television and watching some exotic beast from some foreign country or just pottering down one of our lanes I would always choose the latter. Indeed, I imagine myself in old age in a powered wheelchair doing so to the bitter end.

Ramsons again.

Stonecrop, a sedum that (as the name suggests) loves to live in stony places but there, just alongside, is a group of bluebells which don't. Both seem to be doing quite well.

I have chosen these two to demonstrate how short spring can be. Both are taken within a hundred yards of each other and show a hedge which has a good deal of sycamore in it (despite the fact that this is a pretty rotten plant for hedging). One section gets a lot more sun than the other which explains the difference. Anyway, top - new and very beautiful sycamore leaves still that luscious yellowy-pinky-red whilst the others are already quite grown up and a rather boringly just green.
 So yesterday I set off with my simplest camera – a delightful Panasonic Lumix – and I took a series of photographs from the car just to prove the point and to share some of the delights with you. Some of the plants shown here are already passing over – now the verges and hedges will start to take on their summer coats  the snowdrops have gone but we still have some winter aconite, primroses and celendines (but I have already shared them with you in earlier blogs). Yes, there will be much to see and much to enjoy but it will be autumn before the lanes are once again quite simply magical.

Almost certainly cow parsley or a close relative. This family (after which the umbrella gets its name) will dominate the verges for the rest of the summer.

I don't know. Simple as that. No idea. The leaves in early spring look just like bluebell leaves but they are rather harsher to the feel and less fleshy. The flowers, as you can see, are uninspiring. I have pored through books and asked friends for help with identifying them but nobody seems to know. So, over to you - come on, one of you must be able to help.

I should add that one of the constraints of sticking to taking photographs from the car is that you only have those images available when it comes to identification. I have done the best I can but some may well be wrongly named. The other problem is that you tend to hold up the traffic: sorry to all those who sat behind me, patiently waiting until (with a jolt) I realised they were there.

Of course he's called Churchill. Well, he had to be didn't it? (For those who do not live in the UK, this is the spit image of a dog who is used to advertise an insurance company which trades under the name of Churchill).