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Paths of Delight

26th July 2020 @ 6:06am – by Adrian Leighton
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wild flowers

Paths of Delight by Adrian Leighton

If you have ventured into the Turnpike Fields recently you will be aware that different parts of the Fields are now accessible by a series of Paths. These include the well-worn ways but also some new mown paths. These help access the picnic tables and also circular paths that lead to the less popular areas of the Fields. It is hoped that these will provide a variety routes for dog walking or the daily constitutional. For those enjoying the wildlife adventure of the Fields it may take you to explore new habitats.

The ever changing scene on the Fields has brought some new players into the limelight and in particular the striking pink flowers of the Rosebay Willowherb. In America it is called Fireweed, and in our islands traditionally known as St Antony's Laurel. With other plants already setting seed, Rosebay Willowherbs provides continuing sustenance for bees and butterflies. It is noticeable that the flowering seems to be earlier these days as it used to flower more associated with late Summer. As we have discovered with other plants it has significant medicinal properties containing 90 times more vitamin A and 4 times more vitamin C than an orange. In Russia it is used as a tea known in Europe as "Ivan Chai". The massed ranks of the Rosebay Willowherb are one of the delights of summer.

A recent wander revealed that one of one Spring flowerers is putting on an encore. It is the hedge loving Garlic Mustard, alias Hedge Garlic, Poor Man's Mustard, Penny Hedge and also known as Jack-by-the Hedge. In Spring it was a mass of tiny white flowers, which seed to long spiky seed pods but now again we can see a sprinkling of those white flowers. (You can see some by the little gate ajacent to the canal). This is an understated flowering plant easily overlooked but part of the extravagant chorus of Spring. It is a biennial plant which means we will have to wait until 2022 for it to flower again. Its medicinal properties are said to help rheumatism but it comes with a strong health warning. In the culinary scene, its seeds can be used as a mild mustard and the roots like a mild horseradish.

wildlife

You will notice that in my articles I have predominantly written about plants we can see. The reason is that they are the easiest to identify and study because, on the whole, they stay still! Butterflies and other flying insects can be really frustrating, as they just won't keep still. So I have recently invested in old-fashioned butterfly net in my identifying and appreciation of these creatures. Believe me using one is not as easy as it looks. So if you see a mad man running around in a frenzy waving a net, please don't call the police, I'm quite harmless! Nevertheless my first skirmish did enable me to realise all the hoppy things in grass are not the same. I have already distinguished three different types of grasshopper. Now I only have to distinguish the difference in the pictures in my Insect book. Grasshoppers again take me make to summers long ago when as a child the natural world was such a normal place for us.

Wildness so often brings the child out in us. Someone famous once said, "Unless you become like a child you cannot see the kingdom of heaven". Sometimes wandering around the Fields it feels like heaven on earth.

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