Thursday, 11 January 2018

Dog Walking

My daughter, Jacqui, is at a Headteachers' Conference today, so Chris and I are looking after Bing. Being a young dog she needs lots of walking and this suits us very well as we need walking too.
Whilst it would be an exaggeration to suggest that signs of spring abound there are indicators here and there. Hazel catkins have been evident since before Christmas but now some specimens are carrying a full complement of these dangling male organs, shedding pollen in the breeze.
Hazel catkins are now abundant.
Daventry, 11 January, 2018
We did a circuit of Stefen Leys Pocket Park and I was pleased to see that the recently-dredged pond has now filled up. Hopefully within a few weeks frogs and toads will be gathering for their annual orgy. The Yellow Iris clumps seem to have survived and it is likely that Purple Loosestrife will reappear too.
In Stefen Leys Pocket Park the pond is now full. Bing investigates.
11 January, 2018

The pocket park's drift of snowdrops is now almost in bloom, but the insides of the 'petals' are yet to show. Once open the flowers will remain until bees have done their work. I have mixed feelings about snowdrops and I fail to understand the enthusiasm of galanthophiles, but no doubt my interest in creepy-crawlies would seem equally inexplicable to many.
Snowdrops. What more can be said? Stefen Leys Pocket Park, Daventry.
11 January, 2018

I suppose it is largely about the timing of snowdrop flowers:

                                     Dyed in winter's snow and rime,
                                     Constant to their early time...

                                                                         Elizabeth Kent.

(Elizabeth Kent was, to be honest, speaking of Wood Anemones but I feel she ought to have been referring to snowdrops.)
Anyway, these flowers, to my mind rather unexciting, do carry in their blooming a promise of spring. Of new life.
But death was also in evidence in the pocket park. Serried ranks of fungi on an old tree stump provided outward evidence of the decay going on within. The species is, of course, Turkey-tail, Trametes versicolor and no doubt it will reappear for some years until the remains of the tree are no more than an amorphous lump.
Looking curiously coral-like, this Turkey-tail is busy returning the
 nutrients from this tree stump to the soil. Stefen Leys Pocket Park,
11 January, 2018
Bing seemed curiously lacking in interest regarding either snowdrops or fungi; gateposts clearly carried fascinating smells and she would have been happy to carry on sniffing. I suggested that she had walked enough but received a scornful look as she set off in another direction. As far as I was concerned this extra yardage revealed little of interest except a plant of Stinking Hellebore, Helleborus foetidus. Like the snowdrops this is an early-flowering plant but requires a month or so before its curious green and maroon flowers are revealed. It has an odd status around here and is perhaps a garden escape.
Stinking Hellebore at the edge of a garden. Stefen Hill, Daventry.
11 January, 2018

I would have thought it of little horticultural value but the Elizabethan herbalist John Gerard regarded it as 'very ornamental in shady walks and shrubberies'. It is in the Buttercup Family, Ranunculaceae, and like many of its relatives it is poisonous. Gilbert White claimed that in the Selborne area women 'give the leaves powdered to children troubled with worms'. It may have been efficacious but, I feel, rather drastic.
At this point I put my foot down and told Bing we were going home. She muttered something unrepeatable under her breath but caught the steely look in my eye. Home it was!

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