Thursday, 24 November 2016

Ashby Fields at al (amended)

Chris was off to Northampton today, selling Christmas cards - 'Cards for Good Causes' - leaving me free to continue with my plan of walking myself back to fitness - it has now been a year since my heart operation - and exploring the wild and remote regions of Daventry.
In the town centre I grabbed a bus for Lang Farm but having followed what seemed a tortuous route for a few minutes I decided enough was enough and rang the bell for the next stop. Surprise! Quite by chance I had stepped off outside my daughter's school (by which I mean that she is head teacher, rather than the owner, of that august establishment). It would have been nice to pop in and see her I resisted the temptation as she would be very busy. Instead I began to retrace the bus route back to town.
Pleasant streets lined with poplars and birches helped to disguise the fact that some serious social problems exist in the area. This kind of beauty is, it seems, only skin-deep. I had barely started my walk when I was stopped by a clump of Upright Hedge-parsley, Torilis japonica, at the roadside. Surely not a surprise, I hear you say, as it is very common across Britain. But this relative of the carrot, normally in bloom around July to September, was here covered in flowers with their characteristic pink-tinged flower buds.
Torilis japonica in flower! Ashby Fields, Daventry.
24 November, 2016
A closer look shows the umbels of dainty flowers in more detail. In mid-summer these would probably barely merit a second glance, but in late November! Incidentally Druce* describes this plant as septal, and explains that this term is used for 'plants of hedgebanks and hedgerows'. No online dictionary (Collins, Merriam-Webster, Cambridge, etc) offers this definition. I take it that the word is derived from the Latin saepimentum - a hedge.
I strode on, feeling a little annoyed with myself at having failed to bring a map. All the streets in the area were named after intrepid explorers (Shackleton Drive, Mallory Way, Burton Close, etc) and I was concerned that I could get lost in in Daventry. Wimp! Snowberries, Symphoricarpos albus (formerly S. racemosus) grew at the roadside, bearing a remarkably heavy crop of fruit. Personally I don't think this North American shrub is worth growing although I suppose the white berries are moderately attractive. To be fair, the flowers of this honeysuckle relative are very attractive to bees, but there are surely far better shrubs.
Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus as a roadside shrub, Daventry.
24 November, 2016
Growing with the Snowberry were shrubs of Oleaster, Eleagnus x ebbingei. Though its cream flowers are quite tiny they are very fragrant; what a pity the cold north-east wind was whisking away any scent I might have detected.
The small but fragrant flowers of Oleaster. Daventry. 24 November, 2016
A little further on a bryony was winding through roadside shrubs. I am reasonably sure it was White Bryony, Bryonia dioica, but with all its leaves gone I cannot be confident.
Bryony, but which one? Daventry, 24 November, 2016
It is the only member of the Cucumber family, Cucurbitaceae, to be found wild in Britain and, oddly, the Black Bryony, Tamus communis, is the sole member of the Yam family, Dioscoriaceae, in the British flora. Black or White, the berries are poisonous.

I pushed on and soon found that my road was crossing a disused  railway track. I quickly deviated and decided to use this as an interesting way of getting into town. It was the former line which ran from Weedon, via Daventry, to Leamington Spa. With a fair degree of certainty - the sun was not to be seen - I set off towards Daventry, only to realise, 200 metres later, that I was heading in the wrong direction.
Looking towards town. I went the other way!
Daventry, 24 November, 2016
Oh bother, I thought. Nevertheless I pressed on, sure that I'd soon find myself in familiar territory..  Grey Squirrel, Dunnock, Great Tit, Magpie - the wildlife was fairly predictable but I was pleased when a pair of Goldfinches flitted across the track, just missing my head. In the chilly conditions no insects were seen although a Stinging Nettle leaf bore the mine of the fly, Agromyza anthracina, a very commonplace species.
 I pressed on yet further and, via Drayton Way, headed for town. Gorse, Ulex europaea, inevitably in flower, grew beside the road.
Kissing's in season! Gorse in Daventry, 24 November, 2016
And further on, also at the roadside, its relative, Broom. (Don't be silly Tony)
Broom, (Cytisus domesticus?) Roadside near Daventry. 24 November, 2016

Oddly enough, as I approached Daventry town centre, I found a thicket of the genuine Broom, Cytisus scoparius - but not in flower.
The real thing at the edge of Daventry. 24 November, 2016
I eventually made it, passing three or four unexpected plants of Spindle, Euonymus europaeus, on the way.
Spindle brightened a dull hedgerow. Daventry. 24 November, 2016
With my originally brisk walk now reduced to little more than a plod I continued home. Between three and four miles I suppose. Progress of a sort.

* G. Claridge Druce (1930) 'The Flora of Northamptonshire'

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