The coming of may
May is a time for wildflowers here. The primroses have gone, the wood anenomes are disappearing and the foxgloves have yet to come. But everywhere along verge sides and at the base of the hedgerows wildflowers are crowding out the grass.
The wild cherry blossom and the blackthorn are fading but hawthorn, known also as may for the month of its flowering, is frothing along the hedges. Our hawthorn hedges here on the hill are still resolutely green, but for the sake of a couple of hundred feet (sorry, I know I should think of height in metric terms but it is a painful translation from feet to metres and doesn't mean anything in my head so I will old-fashionedly stick to feet today) the hawthorn trees at by the river in the bottom of the valley are just coming into bloom. Here is the first, the flowers flushed ever so faintly with pink.
Walking today with a heavy pack (practice, practice for the Offa's Dyke, a little easier each time) I saw the impact of height on both plants and animals. Before I reached the river in the bottom and the flowering of the may, I climbed the hill and walked along the ridge to come down the other side of the valley, to walk in what is usually my view. Most of the sheep here lambed weeks ago and the lambs are beginning to round out, still astonishingly prettier than the stolid adult sheep, but no longer utterly beguiling or too pretty to believe, living postcards. But right at the top of the hill there were two tiny ones, perhaps the last for this year. I only caught one, the other was already off, disappearing out of the viewfinder and away across the field.
As I walked, the verges were full of bluebells and stitchwort. I remember vividly as a child playing in a bluebell wood with my brother, delirious with the blueness of the flowers, rolling in them as if they were water. I tried to pick some to take home for my mother but they drooped even before we got home and I threw them disappointedly in a ditch by the side of the road. I must have been about eight or nine. I don't remember any guilt about the wanton destruction of the flowers. Bluebells were as common as dandelions then, special only because they were so seductively blue and fleeting. Now I know that many of the bluebell woods of my childhood have vanished, grubbed up for agriculture, built upon for housing, but there are still many here in North Wales although now I would not dream of taking anything but photographs.
Stitchwort is a beautiful little flower, easily overlooked but simple and satisfying. It is named for its apparent ability to ease a runner's stitch, a pain in the side. I shall find out the Welsh names for all of these flowers from a Welsh speaking friend. They crowd the hedge bottoms in their thousands.
I am not sure what this one is below, with a lovely clear yellow flower held above leaves not unlike those of a hardy geranium. I think it might be called Tomentil, a form of potentilla, but if anyone knows for sure I would love to know.
The last bit of my walk took me along the River Wheeler, a small river, rushing clear and brown, where otters are often seen, although sadly never yet by me. The banks to either side for yards and yards are white with wild garlic just now, also known as ramsoms. Crush the leaves and flowers and the smell of garlic is pungent.
It is a beautiful flower, clearly from the same family as the allium in the garden. And thinking of the garden brings on a wry smile. Here I am striving to make a garden in not the easiest of places, reading Beth Chatto about the importance of understanding what plants will happily grow in your soil and trying to create something which will be happy here, sometimes failing, sometimes losing plants to the cold or the stony soil, the picture in my head always years ahead of what you see on the ground. Yet walk the lanes and nature is carelessly throwing out beauty. There is a lesson there again: grow what loves you.