Friday, 26 August 2016

St Andrew's Hospital

Chris and I visited Northampton today where she received more treatment at the General Hospital. The procedure was in two parts, with a break of almost three hours between them. We partly filled in the time by visiting the Daily Bread Co-operative with a lunch at the adjacent caf√©.

Chris met up with a couple of old friends there and so, having eaten and exchanged pleasantries, I left them to reminisce and wandered off for a little exploration. A nearby pond held my attention for a while and I regretted not being able to record insects there, for plenty were around, particularly on damp marginal mud. Many water lilies occupied the middle of the pond; although probably planted here, this is one of our three native species, the White Water-lily, Nymphaea alba.

White water lilies in a pond beside the Daily Bread Co-operative,
Billing Road, Northampton. 26 August, 2016
The flowers often attract dragonflies and John Clare was aware of this, writing:

                                  Where Water-lilies mount their showy buds,
                                  On whose broad swimming leaves of glossy green
                                  The showy dragon-fly is often seen.

                                                               Clare's Rural Muse. 1835

These flowers were held well above the pond's surface, but they are known sometimes to flower under water - a phenomenon noted by the apothecary cum botanist John Hill as far back as 1773, when he wrote: 'I have seen them...twenty feet underneath the surface [in flower] in the clear Nen a mile above Peterborough.'

I continued my walk and soon found myself encroaching on land belonging to St Andrew's Hospital where, incidentally John Clare and, a century or so later one of my favourite composers, Malcolm Arnold, received treatment for psychiatric problems. Neither really properly functioned again. (If anyone thinks that Arnold wrote 'trivial' music, listen to his Second Symphony and be prepared to change your mind!)

Colourful drifts of flowers in the grounds of St Andrew's Hospital,
Northampton. 26 August, 2016
Laudably a swathe of land has been sown with meadow plants, mostly annuals, to produce a very colourful display. A good number of insects were visiting the blooms but I was a little saddened to see that the blend of seeds used was only partially composed of native species. An obvious giveaway was the presence of Scarlet Flax, Linum rubrum.

The alien Scarlet Flax amongst the meadow flowers.
St Andrew's Hospital, Northampton. 26 August, 2016
There is no denying that this species, a native of northern Africa and southern Europe, produces lovely blooms but British it ain't, and a species such as Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor, would, to my eyes, have been far more welcome. I shouldn't be churlish but my worry is that some continental strains of wildflower will hybridise with native stock. Is that being racist? I don't think so.

Anyway, pausing only to pick a few birch catkins (to be checked later for signs of galling by Semudobia species), I returned to gather Chris and whisk her back to the N.G.H. for the second phase of today's treatment.  

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