Saturday, 1 February 2014

Burning off breakfast

The BBC had promised a sunny, rain-free day, and so it was - until the afternoon. Fortunately Chris I got our walk in before the rain arrived. Our route took us down "The Twistle" and I poked my head over the parapet to look down on to the old track-bed of the SMJ (Stratford upon Avon and Midland Junction Railway).

Flooded track bed of the old
S.M.J. Railway, Byfield. 1 February, 2014

This stretch of the track is completely inaccessible to the public but it hasn't stopped people from throwing rubbish over the parapet. The track bed is generally damp but the amount of water there at the moment is testament to the heavy rains of recent weeks. It will be a long time before this drains away.

Aubretia on a wall. The Twistle, Byfield.
1 Febtruary, 2014

I was cheered by the sight of Aubretia, Aubrieta deltoides, flowering on a south-facing wall. A member of the Cabbage family, this native of south-east Europe flourishes in this sort of situation. In its homeland it occurs on dry stony hillsides and cliff faces so a stone wall does very nicely, thank you.

A little further on Stinking Hellebore, Helleborus foetidus, was not far short of flowering. Although it is a native of Northamptonshire it is confined as a truly wild plant to the east of the county.

Map showing the distribution of Stinking
Hellebore (black dots) in Northants.

This map, from 'The Flora of Northamptonshire' by Gill Gent et al shows that Stinking Hellebore is not native to the Byfield area and here it must be considered a garden escape. Indeed, the plant photographed was in a garden but it is frequently seen on waste ground. It constantly crops up in my garden and I suspect that the seeds stay viable for a long time.

A lovely crab apple was fruiting in a nearby garden. I suspect it is Malus baccata or something similar, i.e one of the Siberian Crab Apples. We had these in our garden when I was a child and was very disappointed when I first bit into the fruit. Eventually the flesh will soften and blet; when this point is reached it will become acceptable to birds but at the moment we can simply enjoy the sight of the scarlet fruit.

Scarlet crab apples always seen to contrast beautifully with birches and conifers. In such a situation I would be tempted to plant heathers too.

On my last 3-4 walks I have been driven home by rain. Today, as the darkening skies threatened, we scurried home, refreshed and rather exhilarated. We had earlier enjoyed a hearty meal at The 'Big Breakfast' in Byfield's village hall so we had also burned off a few calories!


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