Tuesday, 19 January 2016


It was off to Daventry in the morning. The brilliant sun gave spring-like conditions - but it was deceptive. True, the snow had disappeared except for small heaps - all that remained of snowmen (or snow-women) - but the air was still crisp and noses were red.

In grassy areas the rosettes of Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, were edged with frost. Their specific name means 'thousand-leaved' (its other old name is Milfoil) but, as the picture shows, each rosette consists of only half a dozen leaves. Each one is twice- or even thrice-pinnate to form thousands of leaflets in a fern-like manner. 

Yarrow rosettes were edged with frost.
Daventry. 19 January, 2016

Legend tells us that it was applied to Achilles' injured heel after the Battle of Troy. It was obviously ineffective (how do you heal a heel?) but it is still employed by herbalists - often blended with Echinacea - for reducing swelling. According to my old herbal half to one drachm (sic) 'opens the pores freely and purifies the blood'. 

The plant is common right across Europe and western Asia and forms with red or yellow flowers are popular in gardens.

Cotoneasters were apparently untouched.
Daventry, 19 January, 2016

At the roadside the cotoneaster shrubs were still heavy with berries. Either the heart of Daventry has a very small population of fructivorous birds or they have not yet been driven by hunger to feed on them.

Grey-bloomed Berberis berries mingled with scarlet
Cotoneaster fruit. Daventry. 19 January, 2016

I suspect the latter. Berberis berries with their grey bloom were also untouched; their seeds will not get dispersed via bird droppings. Garden bird-feeders are perhaps more tempting and could be having a significant effect on the distribution of berry-bearing plants.

The sun remained bright through the afternoon and I ventured to Newnham Hill, a mile or so south of Daventry. At 201 metres it would hardly be noticed in Wales or Scotland but here, where the Cotswolds are petering out, it is significant. And we were away from any warming influence of the town.

Snow lingered on Newnham Hill, south of Daventry.
19 December, 2016

Snow lingered and, as the sun was beginning to sink in the western sky, it will probably remain until tomorrow. Nevertheless the soil was not frozen and my footholds were slippery as I plodded up to the top.

Daventry looking north from Newnham Hill.
19 January, 2016

'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view' as Mark Twain wrote, and even Daventry to the north did present a fine picture.

...with Newnham Hall and Badby Woods to the south.
19 January, 2016

To the south the views were even better with a gentle haze softening 'those blue remembered hills' (first Mark Twain, now A.E.Housman - they're all getting a look in today. But Housman was surely referring to heather rather than haze). In the middle distance Newnham Hall was built of white Lego blocks with Badby Woods forming a backdrop.

It is a rare day indeed when gorse bears no flowers.
Newnham Hill. 19 January, 2016

On the acid hilltop Gorse blazed with gold, its flowers brazenly trying to tempt a winter bee. There has been much in the press lately about these occasional out-of- season visits and numerous correspondents have contacted The Guardian to tell of sightings, but on this exposed site there was nothing to be seen except clouds of dancing midges.

I turned on my heel. Shadows were lengthening and when the sun dipped below the horizon the temperatures would dip too. Home!

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