Another weekend away, but on returning we noticed our summer guests had finally arrived. The first time for a long while I have had to wait until May to reacquaint with the House Martins. They had already decided to start work on the nest above our canopy, something that did not go down well with Helen, although I know she doesn't mean it.
By the time we had decided to go out for a walk the House Martins had disappeared again, and in there place was the male Starling. Over the last week we have noticed that somebody had been pulling appart our violas in the pots outside the house. It was always the same two pots, and little bits of shoot and leaf would be seen lying on the floor. Above them the Starlings have built a nest, and I think they are the culprits, using the soft green leaves to line there nest. Chief culprit is the male, who was sat at the apex of the house as we left singing away.
It was only to be a short walk, the legs being a little weary after the challenges of the Suffolk coast. The sunshine that had blessed the weekend was now turning a little watery, and the cool breeze was beginning to win through. This probably accounted for the silent walk along Brislands. You could hear a few birds singing, the odd Blackcap, Chiffchaff and of course Robin, but there was a sense of quiet that surrounded us. The butterflies too that have been around the last few weeks were absent.
As we walked along side the fields there was a very distant Skylark singing, but nothing in the hedgerow. As small brown lump in the field to the south caught my eye but was very distant. I suspected it to be a pheasant or partridge but I couldn't be sure, so I told myself it could be mega!
Very slowly the vegetation is beginning to win back the the footpath into Old Down. The path remains much wider than last year due to the recent work, but it is starting to look like it's old self.
As we walked into the wood I kept looking across the field to see if I could get a better view of the blob. Finally I found an opening where we could get a good view. The blob was still distant but now it could be seen quite clearly to be two Red-legged Partridges, never mind.
The bluebells in the wood are now just beginning to go past there best, but they are still providing a wonderful show, and today the blue was very intense due to the lack of direct sunshine. Trails can be seen meandering through them caused probably by the Roe Deer that wander around the wood.
We too meandered along, taking the new paths created due to the fallen trees blocking the olld path. We reached the site of the Early Purple Orchids and were pleased to see that they are still in full flower, the spikes extending now well over 30 cms.
This year the number has doubled from last year to four. One though had fallen down, probably due to damage by deer or a dog. Helen conducted some emergency first aid, and it looked quite splendid once again.
There are three together and one on its own amongst a patch of Bluebells.
The wood floor is now a live with flowers and plants. The Bluebells of course, but where the bluebells are not then a carpet of Dog Mercury covers the ground. Solomon's Seal are alos starting to flower, their bell like petals hanging from beneath the leaves that curve out above the bluebells.
Solomon's Seal is known as a medicinal herb that has many diverse medicinal properties. It can be used as a herbal tincture, tea or supplement but it is also know to give relief to bruises, and injuries of the tendons, ligaments and cartilage. It is also know to lower blood pressure and relieve dry coughs. Many herbal practitioners consider a tincture of this plant an essential component of any medical cabinet. Botanically it is a close relative of the Lily of the Valley. The arcing stem of the the leaves and the flowers underneath give it another name of Sow's Teats.
The wood was also filled with the scent of the Ransom's or Wild Garlic, they were in flower in large patches making a contrast with the greens and blues that had dominated in other areas of the wood.
It is actually a relative of the chive, and can be used for cooking, but care needs to be taken when picking as there are similar species that are poisonous. In Britain colonies are associated with Bluebells and are seen as an indicator of ancient woodland, something which Old Down is considered.
A little further on Helen found a patch of another interesting plant, Wood Spurge, this holds a milky latex like sap that is very toxic, and can cause irritation if you get it on your skin. The yellow green leaves looked lovely against the watery sunlight.
The flowers kept coming this time I spotted the tiny pink flowers of a Herb Robert, if he petals and leaves look familiar it is because this little plant is a member of the geranium family. If you crush the leaves it has an unpleasant smell, and if you rub the leaves on your arms it is said to repel mosquitoes. It is also stated that it can cure toothache and nose bleeds.
From the perimeter path we headed back up the main footpath. This area is now transformed into a light and airy ride. In warm sunshine I am hoping it will provide an attraction for butterflies, but today we could only find one, a female Orange Tip, looking I think for somewhere to lay eggs. The greens, yellows and grey in her under-wing is very much understated, a beautiful butterfly up close
We carried on up the path towards the crossroads, then turned to the south and headed towards Swellinghill. The re-planting has continued, and whitish grey tubes can be seen like sentinels amongst the fallen branches and trees. Where many of the trees have fallen their life continues with leaves emerging and creating a strange scene of horizontal trees. In years to come there will be an explosion of geotropism growth sending branches vertically upwards.
I asked Helen what she thought of the wood now the spring had arrived, and she said it looked better, but what would happen when the bluebells die back? We shall have to see.
We walked past the pond and down towards Kitwood. It was still very quiet, we headed across the field back into Old Down, passing another Red-legged Partridge in the field. A Chiffchaff sang as we took the short path to the Gradwell entrance, and a few Swallows flew around the paddocks where also some young Rabbits were enjoying the thick green grasses
The final plant to catch our eye today was the tall flue of the Lord and Ladies. This plant has many names ranging from Snakeshead to Cuckoo Pint. The name Lords and Ladies refers to its resemblance to certain anatomical features. Again the plant can be toxic to humans with the possibility of starting an allergic reaction, but small rodents find the purple spadex attractive and it is common to find the plant with the tops all eaten away. I don't believe this one will still be there after dark.
The walk back home was uneventful, but as we approached the house the Starlings called in alarm, and one flew over our heads, and then a Sparrowhawk flew straight between Helen and I and zipped around the corner of the house unsuccessful in it's attack. The alarm calls continued, but we didn't see it again. The Sparrowhawk is becoming a regular visitor to the garden.
I left the camera out as we enjoyed a beer in the garden, but hawk never returned, nor did our summer guests, but I am sure they will be back soon