Blackthorn Days

April 2023 David Beeson

In South England, January and February were bone dry, quickly followed by a hyper-wet March that has filled our local aquifers to overflowing. The ‘bournes’ (seasonal rivers) have found more vigour than usual, gushing along as if hurrying to reach the sea. They have crystal-clear water, as does our garden pond. The rain has ensured no pond top-up has been needed this year and the hunting Palmate Newts can be spotted searching out the remaining one or two frog tadpoles.

There was no need to cut our meadows early this year. Sometimes the mower has been whizzing around as early as late January, but this year I still have not needed to trim the herbage. Very strange. Anyway, we have a ‘no cut’ policy for our main lawn / meadow in April and May to allow the flowering rush to provide supplies for our treasured insects. It will be mowed in June and the cuttings added to our compost heaps.

Primroses are dappled shade specialists.

The snowdrops, crocuses and wild daffodils have now completed their flowering, while their seed pods are still developing. Primroses, in the shady spots, and sun-loving cowslips are providing nectar and pollen for both the bees and the bee flies. And the wild Tulipa sylvestris are just showing their delicate flowers in the open meadow. For, despite their name of Wood Tulip, here they fail to flower in any hint of shade.

The delicate, and rare Meadow Saxifrage not only flowers exuberantly but spreads with enthusiasm. We will again collect seeds this year to spread on road verges.

We have some mystery orchid plants in the Summer Meadow. They appear to be in the Bee Orchid family, yet we’ll not know their type until (hopefully) they flower. Elsewhere I can see hundreds of Pyramidals in leaf, several dozen Twayblades, a Forest Edge record of at least 15 Spotted Orchids, Greater and Lesser Butterfly Orchids and a small number of Marsh Orchids (But expect more to show soon). The Monkey x Military Orchid (and a new friend) is present but is having ‘year-off’ flowering. I have seeded Marsh Helleborine near the pond and must await any developments; it could be several years.

In both the garden and Harewood Forest the Bluebells are just starting to show their blue belled-flowers. The hazel catkins are in full retreat, while the promise of hazel nuts can just be seen.

Blackthorn is also known as Sloe – the name of its fruits.
Blackthorn flowers

The hedgerows are progressing through their regular sequence: Cherry Plum in late February, Blackthorn and Damsons in March / early April this year and now the Wild Cherries are attracting both the hive and bumble bees. Soon the Hawthorn (May trees) will bust out with white and red flowers. We have planted some of the locally very rare Bird Cherry shrubs … and they could give us a few blooms this year to join with the Wild Privet in June.

Wild Cherry Trees are fast growing.
Cherry blossom.

The small mammal feeder has yet to attract any Dormice, however, Wood and Yellow-necked mice are visiting. Bank and Field Voles are living on the garden’s fringe. Kestrels, Buzzards and Red Kites visit us regularly and the Dawn Chorus is in full voice. It makes waking early a pleasure.

Ticks have survived the colder-than-average winter brilliantly! Even a minor diversion into longer woodland vegetation delivered plenty of the little blood-suckers. So, watch out. Tuck in your trousers and wear light-coloured clothing.

Don’t forget to iPLayer the additional David Attenborough programme about UK wildlife that will not be shown on BBC. I understand the government complained about it. Bizarre. Sounds more like Putin’s Russia than the UK.

The trees are always slow in coming into leaf. This allows sunlight onto the woodland floor and the development of a herbaceous layer of Wild Daffodils, Blue Bells and Dog’s Mercury.

Brown long-eared bat.

Almost certainly this website will be closed down in September. Do download any articles that you might wish to keep.

David Beeson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: