I couldn’t resist going back for another look at the bluebells before they go over. I cannot remember ever seeing anything quite so stunning. That plunging hillside, absolutely covered in a massive sweep of bobbing blue heads, was just beyond description, and also beyond any attempt to capture its glory in a photograph. It was a breezy day, with some sun and a lot of cloud. It was quite cold, and there was no hanging around, but I was lucky to arrive at the bluebells in a good spell of sunshine. The verges, hedges and fields on the way there and back were also full of interest and pretty things. A fairly short walk, about an hour’s round trip, perhaps a little longer, but so rewarding. As well as a Pied Wagtail, a Small Copper butterfly and some various beautifully lyrical but invisible song birds, surprises included a field of horses (sheep and cattle are what one tends to expect at the top of a hill) and a rabbit bouncing down the road.
Two rather fuzzy photos show a Pied Wagtail and a Small Copper. Both were quite a long way away (as was the rabbit at the end of this post). They were right at the limit of my lens. It’s a good all-round lens but blurs edges at its full range, so apologies that these photos are particularly clear.
Pied wagtail (Motacilla alba yarellii), pied meaning simply “of mixed colours.” Frequently found near sources of water and in open country, particularly near farms. Their diet is made up of insects, mainly flies, and those venues provide plenty of insect life.
The Small Copper (above) likes to feed on the Common Sorrel (below). There is Common Sorrel dotted around all over the area, maturing to red flowers, but it is not particularly thick on the ground, so it’s good that there’s enough to support the Small Coppers.
Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea), a member of the dead nettle family. Apparently it smells strongly of blackcurrant. In beer-making, and before hops were used instead, ground ivy leaves were used to add flavour to beer.
Red campion (Silene dioica), one of those summer-long flowers that is seen all over the country in the summer and seeds like crazy, so will continue to bless a location with its presence for years to come once it has been established.
Common vetch (Vicia sativa). This was native to southern Europe and became established all over northern Europe when it was introduced as a fodder crop for livestock. It is a member of the pea family, and makes its own nitrogen, making it a good fixer of nitrogen in soil. The leaves, engagingly arranged in opposing rows, have needle-like tips. I love the vetch. Its delicacy, its vibrant colouring and the parallel symmetry of its leaf arrangement are beautiful.
The biennial foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) can be found just about anywhere throughout the summer, and look as though they were custom-made for bees. Amazingly versatile, and they will take almost any soil and any light conditions and they seed themselves like mad.
Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata) in flower. During the winter, the seed-heads provide a good source of food for birds. A very beautiful field right on the top of the hill is chock full of ribwort plantain, buttercups and daisies.
Navelwort (Umbilicus rupestris) with distinctive leaves and cream-coloured bell-like flowers clustering along the stem, like tiny floxgloves. I had never seen it before, but it grows all over this area, in verges and rocky niches and I love the disc-shaped leaves that have the dip, or navel, that gives the plant its name.
Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens). Splendid colour, pure sunshine. We used to hold buttercups under our chins when I was a child, and the more yellow the reflection, the better you were supposed to like butter.
I am not sure about this one. Possibly a scabious, but I should have paid more attention to the leaves.
Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta). The latin word Hyacinthoides derives from the name of Prince Hyacinthus in Greek mythology. Hyacinthus was the lover of the god Apollo and died when hit by a discus when the two were playing quoits. When Hyaninthus died, the god Apollo wept, and his tears spelled the word ‘alas’ on the petals of the hyacinth flower that sprang up from the prince’s blood. Non-scripta simply means unlettered and and is used to distinguish the Bluebell from other species in the genus.