Tuesday, 20 April 2021

A Different Perspective

 Fifth Visit:

Visiting my field today I decided to enter from the opposite end.  The hedge doesn't run round the entire border and can in fact be accessed from three sides. It's a large field, probably six acres and is cultivated sometimes but is presently set aside. As I think I've mentioned before originally it was common land. Some has been sold off and a number of bungalows built, so there is a right angled cut-out in its irregular shape.


The perspective from this end is completely different.  What most immediately springs to mind is that there is no rape there only the tall barley stubble I'd remarked on when visiting for the first time. The barley stalks look wind-buffeted and there's a clear imprint of the wind's direction. I walked up the wide grassy and weedy margin on the right side of the field towards my usual spot, noticing that in fact the oil seed rape only covers  a small section of the field, in fact it was really quite local to my spot.  I glanced down ready to set down my stuff and was surprised to see the docks, so luxuriant last week now brown and collapsed looking.  The explanation lay in the the huge prairie-like field where we'd observed a man spraying at the weekend, the one where I'd seen the sheep.  His activity had changed the English pastoral image of a few weeks ago into a yellow killing zone.  The wind in its turn had blown the weed killer into my field, felling the docks.  A sad result, but surely the wind too was an explanation for the lemon-yellow rape seed flowers that had been delighting me so much.

With each visit I'm understanding more about the way the plants compliment one another: they seen to cluster together, an ecosystem finding its place among the flints.  Here is thistle, red nettle and what I think, judging by the leaf shape and the images in my Collins Nature Guide, is forget-me knot with, as always, clumps of grass.


My eye is also drawn to the structure of individual plants: the way hawthorn's side shoots dart out from the main stem like giant thorns, with hardly a joint in sight.  This is so different from other bushes and trees where scarring is visible at that point.  And very different to the way shoots on soft plants appear between the main stem and the furl of a leaf.  Then there is the way leaves gradually are released, beech in the hedgerow and nettles so tightly compressed they're almost pleated, parachute-like, between each vein.

I'm drawn too to the character of plants, not that I'm wanting to give them human qualities, but I am noticing the hawthorn and linking it to the spikiness of the thistle.  Nettles too are akin in this regard, their leaf shapes warning us even before their sting is felt. Grass and other bladed plants are pointed, but without threat. Compare all these with the benign and curving shapes of docks and dandelions such variety in one field.

6th Visit:

My heart is lifting as I leave home.  The sea marge has drifted away and the sun's now shining.  Still quite close to home a field of rape is all aglow, the Alexanders frothing in profusion on the verge, great swathes of the waterlily-like butterbur make a colour study in green. A little later I park up and I make the usual series of notes about changes in the hedgerow:an inventory.  Here are the tightly pleated beech leaves stretching out, the roughshod machine pruning from which some parts of the hedge have not yet recovered, an abundance of dandelions and some clocks ready to release their seeds.  I also want to take a proper photograph of the damaged docks.


Today is a day of pacing out the field, which I do, and noticing.  Today though it's not soil or rocks or plants in the field; it is wild life.  I'm alerted to this thought by a pair of pheasants rushing through a gap in the hedge just as I enter.  Now sound and movement are everywhere. First birds, hard to see at first high up in the trees, song chiming with song across the field.  They're chiffchaffs with their yellow markings.  Then hares!  First the ears of one become visible, then another quite unafraid until there are six who race away.  Now skylarks! They flutter up from the stubble, such camouflage is ideal for both birds and hares.  The sun is gorgeously warm, there's the hum of bees, a wasp and hoverflies -- such loveliness.

And at last a few rough sketches.




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