Sunday, 29 July 2018

Newnham Hill

Recent heavy rain has imbued the dry grasslands with a faint flush of green. A few more days and this scene will rapidly become verdant, grass having remarkable powers of recovery. As I stand on the hill beside the windmill I gaze across the sweeping landscape to the west. A temporary lull in traffic quite erroneously suggests that the scene hasn't changed much in centuries - then I notice the slash of a vapour trail across the sky; there must rarely be a time nowadays when such scars are absent.

Another 'ear worm' is harrying me today. It is the second of Edward German's three dances from Nell Gwyn. It is a haunting little tune but my brain is doing it to death. I ought to be whistling the third dance - one frequently mocked or parodied in comedy sketches: think Monty Python's fish-slapping dance.

A couple of rabbits scuttle into the undergrowth. I don't see many mammals on my walks, and only an occasional amphibian - a frog or two on the lower, damper ground. I've not seen a reptile at all and am unlikely to do so - unless Christopher Chope puts in an appearance. 

I'm feeling a bit down in the dumps today. An enquiry has concluded that democracy is being undermined by the harvesting and misuse of data in order to manipulate people. Was an enquiry necessary? After all it was only, to use the technical jargon, 'stating the bleeding obvious'. This has been going on for many years, when rich and powerful people such as Rupert Murdoch (whoops, I'm back to reptiles again) take over a huge proportion of the media and then employ carefully selected statistics to misinform their audience.  God help us!

Striding across damp fields I see that some Creeping Thistle has been sprayed. I confess to being a little disappointed but I do recognise that this is a working farm and not currently a candidate for re-wilding. In his book, Our Place, Mark Cocker laments that 'Britain (is becoming) a country of nature-rich islands amid an increasingly uniform ocean of chemically treated monocultures'. Here on Foxhill Farm Matt is doing his bit but unless he is prepared to get in a herd of goats or something similar the thistles will need removing by other means.

But there is no doubt in my own mind that walking in the countryside, herbicide-tainted though it may be, does help to lift depression. The in-word is 'mindfulness' - looking rather than just seeing - and this is surely key to enjoying the surroundings and returning home with spirits lifted.

Anyway, where was I?

I had entered the farm from the east, the windmill gradually appearing, the grasses hiding the ugly graffiti defacing the base. It occupies a superb position, able to make the most of westerly winds as they sweep up the scarp slope.

Newnham Windmill came into sight. 30 July, 2018
Restored, it would make a wonderful sight, and would offer a breathtaking view west into Warwickshire. My photograph, looking across the tree-clothed slopes, is taken from the base of the tower; imagine what it would be from the top!

Looking west from the base of the windmill  into Warwickshire.
30 July, 2018
The high winds were make it difficult to utilise my umbrella but it nevertheless proved effective in scooping up insects. An Oak Bush Cricket, Meconema thalassinum, was soon found, dropping into my umbrella from a sycamore tree.

The Oak Bush Cricket is superbly camouflaged.
Foxhill Farm. 30 July, 2018
The long, curved ovipositor showed it to be a female. It is quite a common species but its superb camouflage makes it easy to overlook.

It was soon followed by a Hawthorn Shieldbug, Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale, a species I have found very scarce this year. As I have said before, the specific name refers to the reddish underside of the rear end, fancifully suggesting to Linnaeus that the insect was suffering from piles. It is a rather handsome creature.

The hawthorn Shield bug is by no means confined to hawthorn.
Foxhill Farm, 30 July, 2018
On the whole I was disappointed with my haul but hopefully a surprise or two will be revealed once I get down to properly examining some of the smaller specimens



Cocker, Mark (2018) Our Place. Jonathan Cape

Tony White. E-mail:

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