Friday, 15 January 2016

Daventry: the Marches

This morning we rose to the coldest morning of the winter so far. A light dusting of snow had followed a sharp frost, leaving the pavements white.

The coldest night of 2016 so far.
Daventry, 15 January, 2016

My grandmother always pronounced the word 'frost' as frorst and, following this rule, pronounced 'cross' as crorse. This means that the old nursery rhyme, 'Ride a cock horse', really did rhyme:

                          Ride a cock horse
                          To Banbury Crorse...

Anyway, it was distinctly chilly and I wrapped up well before setting out for a walk.
My last jaunt had taken me to Drayton; today I visited the less salubrious area around what I call The Marches: Long March, South March, Broad March and High March. I am assuming that, in this context, the word 'march' is derived from the Old English mearc meaning a border area between two regions. Anyway, this part of Daventry is an area of perfectly good houses but they have been squeezed together to create an almost claustrophobic situation.  Space for cars is at a premium and, as a consequence, many front gardens have been concreted over. Potentially bright gardens have been replaced by drabness.

Bergenias were in flower. Daventry. 15 January, 2016

I grow a few saxifrages in small containers and it is odd to consider that Bergenias are members of the same family. Here and there a few were flowering and, at this time of the year, they certainly introduce a splash of colour into a garden, but for the next eleven months...

Alder catkins tossed in a biting wind.
Daventry, 15 January, 2016

Hazel catkins have been open for a few weeks now and today I found the first alder catkins of the year. They appeared to be our native Alnus glutinosa; most of the trees at the roadside appeared to be Grey Alders, Alnus incana, but as they were devoid of leaves or flowers I couldn't be certain.

Wayside apple bushes were probably complex hybrids.
Daventry, 15 January, 2016

Apples hung on a small tree beside Long March; they were clearly not our native Crab Apples, Malus sylvestris, but doubtless came from a discarded apple core. The blossom will please the human eye and also be a magnet - hopefully - for various bees. 

I employ the word 'hopefully' because I have grave concerns about the government's attitude towards neonicotinoids, reinforced by a letter I received earlier today from my M.P. Chris Heaton-Harris. Previously I had expressed to him my misgivings about these powerful pesticides, particularly one marketed as Sulfoxaflor; this was assessed by the European Food Safety Authority as 'highly toxic to bees'. I learn via my M.P. that the government is going ahead with authorising its use - albeit in a limited manner - even though research has also shown that neonicotinoids persist in soil for at least six years. In the U.S.A. a federal court has struck down a permit for the use of Sulfoxaflor, again because of serious misgivings about its toxicity. Worrying!

Moving on. Groundsel, Sow Thistles and White Dead-nettles were all in flower. These ruderals can be relied upon to add a little interest to the winter scene but there was nothing out of the ordinary to get excited about; I had to again console myself with the thought that I'd at least had a brisk bit of exercise.  


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