The Countryside About Us - September 1997

posted 4 Sep 2017, 08:49 by Chris Hoare
Vivant, Brigadier, Cantata and Rialto combined by Claas, Massey Ferguson and John Deere sounds almost, to the uninitiated, like a romantic combination of possibly chorus and trio. Instead, with all credits due to the imagination of the plant breeders in particular, the former are wheat varieties and the latter the machines that harvest them. Ponder then, the next time you casually glance towards that dusty task, that there is still a romance in the harvest operation but you have to dig a little deeper to realize it.

A walk along one of the many delightful footpaths that interlace our parishes, preferably at a slow pace to give one time to “stand and stare” a little, can often reveal the unexpected. What is that black seething mass that clings to the rather nasty leaves of those stinging nettles by the side of the ditch? Closer examination revealed many hundreds of one inch long black caterpillars intertwining with each other like some caterpillar disco! I confess to resorting to my reference book to establish their true identity. It would seem they are the caterpillar of the small tortoiseshell butterfly. The nettle is a much favoured host on which the eggs are laid. Then emerge the black and rather hairy caterpillars which eventually form a chrysalis. Finally the familiar small tortoishell butterfly emerges next year to begin its short life.

Two years ago I was told of efforts to establish a wild flower meadow near Kittles Corner in Cretingham parish. The result was only partially successful. Nature rarely allows total achievement by man to come too easily. So it proved with this meadow. However, several hours of hand weeding to remove indigenous weeds for better establishment and greater varieties of wild flowers produced its reward. This year, in July, no fewer than 21 different species were identified! These included agrimony, ox eye daisy, and sorrel. When I had the privilege of seeing them one lovely sunny morning in mid July the colours and varieties were so well established. The meadow should prove, with reasonable weather conditions, a spectacle for many years to come.

With the recent mixture of rain and warm sunshine, growth has been vigorous. Church Lane in Earl Soham has a good display of the blue bush vetch. Cornflowers have appeared on a bank by a field side not far away. My fears about the disappearance of the heron, were, I am glad to record, short lived. A neighbour who is well placed to watch the comings and goings by the stream which has been their feeding place, reported seeing one recently.

A few days later a heron, calling out in protest, flew overhead mobbed by a rook.

Roger Sykes

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