Saturday, 28 March 2015

Woodland gems

Apologies for the delay in blog posts - I've not been in Salisbury much recently it seems!

The weekend before last featured the first visit to my favourite of woods, Garston Wood RSPB reserve near Sixpenny Handley in deepest Cranborne Chase. Although it's an RSPB reserve, and hence amazing for birds (I am told - not much of a birder myself - need to improve on that!), the flora is amazing - the little carpark gets completely rammed in bluebell season.

However, pre-bluebells (lots of shoots making an appearance, as with ramsons), it's still got much interest. The old hazel coppice has some lovely mossy crevices (you may recall my love of mossyness), and the wood anemones were out in force. Also present - but less showy - was butchers broom, so-called as butchers used to use it for that very purpose (or it might just be an old wives' tale - who are these old wives?!!). It's so different to the delicate and pretty plants one usually associates with woodlands - what look like leaves are actually part of the stem. The tiny flowers and subsequent berries thus appear in the middle of the 'leaves' - all very odd. It stands out like a sore thumb with its erect pricklyness. At the other end of the spectrum, there were also carpets of the much overlooked and decidedly unshowy dog's mercury.

That week also saw the latest issue of BBC Wildlife arrive on my doormat, featuring my letter as letter of the month, which I was very pleased about - I hope that people think about what farmers can do for their environment, and indeed, what a large proportion already do - we need to work with them, not keep telling them off and placing yet more constraints on their already-struggling businesses.

Finally, last weekend I was visiting a friend in Essex - quite a different landscape to Wiltshire - I always miss our rolling hills. It began, of course, with the eclipse - or the darkening of the very cloudy sky that was visible! The clouds did part briefly to enable a couple of shots.

We ended our trip with a visit to the National Trust village of Flatford, with its magnificent willow pollards on the banks of the River Stour - certainly inspiring for me as an artist, and as Constable painted The Hay Wain here, also for him apparently!

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