The nature of Turnpike Fields never stops giving us new and delightful gifts to raise us above the petty machinations of human life. The latest has been the sea of golden ... no, not daffodil, but buttercups below the mound on the top field. Like the daisy, the very familiar buttercup is, to many, no more than a weed. Indeed in the garden and veg patch it can be a bit of a bruiser. However, out in the freedom of the fields we begin to see its true glory.
The scientific name places it in the family of Ranunculaceae, which comes from the Latin for "little frog". This is because it loves watery places which the fields provide especially in the wetland areas.
We have thee common varieties of Buttercup on the Fields. The Creeping Buttercup is the most pervasive and the one you'll most probably find in your gardens as its runners creep across the ground. The Bulbous Buttercup is distinctive in that the green sepals beneath the flower head turn downwards. These two are the earliest to show – from April onwards. The third is the Meadow Buttercup which flowers on much taller stems and generally begins to flower a month or so later.
There are several interesting other names by which the buttercup is known, such as, Crowsfoot, Creeping Crazy,Devil's Guts, Lantern Leaves, Old Wife's Threads and Tangle-grass. The name Buttercup comes from the belief that its yellow colour gave raise to the yellow colour of butter. However in its natural state the plant is toxic to animals, as well as humans. When dried, as in haylage, the toxin degrades and it is perfectly safe for cows. Similarly although naturally toxic to people, it has been used as a cure for rheumatism.
It has a number of cousins in the Ranunculaceae family, including the Lesser Celandine, which delighted us earlier in the year, and the Marsh Marigold which we see each year on the boggy area of the lower Field.
So whether you love them of hate them in your garden, in the expanse and freedom of the Fields we can enjoy them on a summer's day and be immersed in another world.
In January, I told you the tale of Larry the Lonesome Swan. Well, I know that you have been dying for a update! So here is the Continuing Tale of the Lonesome Swan.
In late February Larry moved from his winter residence just below Lock 1. In March he was seen further up the canal but still very much on his own. A pair of Canada Geese had residence just beyond the wooded area who were less that pleased at Larry's arrival and hissed and gesticulated at him to "get out, get out of here".
In the next month Larry moved further up towards Hawksmore Bridge where he spied some other swans. Was Larry at last to find company and dare I hope a mate? Or had the other swans told him, "Get out of town"? For all through the Springtime he seemed to hide himself away perhaps he was ashamed of what others might say until he reappeared once more beyond the wood but still very much alone.
What happened between time we do not know, but In recent days he has been seen in the wooded area above Lock 1, his same lonesome self. I recently saw him having a selfie taken with a passerby who clearly saw him as "the best in town". Still he seems willing to share a hiss or two with anyone willing to pass the time of day. As he glides across the water with his snowy white back and a head so noble and high, he is, as ever, a very fine swan indeed. Although he never was an ugly duckling!