These last few days, with the northerly wind bringing such a deep chill, I find I’ve been putting on and taking off layers of clothes repeatedly throughout the day. In the sunshine, sheltered from the breeze, it is so beautifully warm, then a gust rises and I’m cold all through.
In nature around us, these temperature changes are equally confusing. It’s been an extremely hard start to the year for moths and butterflies, and numbers are predicted to be low this summer. Many invertebrates didn’t survive in the waterlogged soil of what was such a very wet winter, and those that fly have been struggling with the persistent cold winds.
The plant world seems to be in better shape though, and that is enormously heartening. We do have a handful of trees (oak and wild cherry in the main) that sadly didn’t make it through winter, with its perpetually wet ground, and some now have new leaves burned by the heavy frost of the last few days. The vast majority, however, are looking really very happy, with damp roots and sunshine inspiring them to leaf and grow. If the summer isn’t too hot and dry, the trees should do well this year.
As the trees come into leaf, the wildflower meadows are beginning to thicken up with good green growth too. Buttercups, meadow foxtails and sweet vernal grass are in full bloom, with the first oxeye daisies and common vetch beginning to flower. The red campion is mainly in the woodland areas, although some have sneaked into the meadow – there, the swathes of soft pink flowers are the ragged robin, with their wonderfully tatty looking petals. I love its botanical name: Lychnis flos-cuculi, which marks it as a plant that flowers when the cuckoo can be heard. It prefers soggy meadows, which is why it’s done so well this spring, particularly at the bottom of Michael’s Meadow where the soil is still damp.
At the moment, in the chilly winds after that long wet winter, in the midst of the COVID-19 restrictions, whether weeding the butterfly bank, pulling sowthistle or tidying graves, lifting my face to breathe in the sunshine whenever it comes, I must say I feel rather like a tatty-petalled ragged version of myself! We’ve not yet heard the cuckoo though …