Thursday, 21 April 2011
I was a country child and during the long Summer holidays, which always seemed to be hot and sunny, we would go off on our bikes, with our sandwiches and a bottle of water and we would be gone for the day. And where would we go? Often it would be quite near where we lived where there was a river and a lovely hedge tall enough to make dens in. We would make our 'pretend' house and then we would go off exploring, looking in the hedge bottom for violets, peeping quietly into the hawthorn to find birds' nests, climbing trees (we quickly found out which ones were climable). And that was our day - one of simple pleasures out in the fresh air.
I had a close encounter with hedgerows again ten years ago, when we had foot-and-mouth disease here on the farm. One of my jobs was to go round the hedgerows removing every single piece of sheeps' wool - this meant taking secateurs and actually clipping out branches. Then I would put the wool into a bucket, bring it home and the farmer would burn it in case it held the dreaded foot and mouth virus.
But gathering the wool gave me an opportunity to look closely at the hedgerow again and I found violets, cowslips, orchids, nests, all the things I had forgotten about.
This afternoon Tess and I did our walk along the hedge side and I looked again. There is not a single hedge bottom on our farm that is not riddled with rabbit warrens. Often the entrance is wide enough for Tess to get her head and part of her body in and - by golly - her nose works overtime. I noticed that the May blossom (hawthorn) is almost out and that every so often a blackbird flew out - so plenty of nests there. The air was full of blackbird song too.
The hedge side is beginning to attract cowslips again. They do seem to be making a comeback here after disappearing for a few years. Then we came to a lovely,knobbly tree stump which made me smile - as children that would instantly have been utilised as a seat.
Finally we found an owl pellet which I brought home, photographed and dissected. Owls wrap bits of their food which they can't digest into a little ball-like pellet and then regurgitate it. The little bits inside are too small for you to see in the picture I am sorry to say, but there are tiny claws, tiny beaks and what is probably a tiny little skull. When I put the knife into the pellet it kept hitting hard material.
There were violets galore and the crab apple trees are just beginning to show pink. One further down the lane is fully out and shines pink in the distance. The ones in our hedgerow should be fully out in this glorious weather - photograph to follow.