Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Observation and Reflection: Summer Hedgerow

It is a warmish July morning near Offley. A strong breeze flows over the landscape and an occasional light dusting of rain dampens only the air. The barley is golden and in the distance I hear the first distinct hum of a combine this year. I'm on a bridleway passing through the fields and I reach a patch of low hedgerow alongside a small field of set-aside grass. A short length of grasses and an abundance of flowers captivates me for an hour or so as I sketch and observe a community of nature full of energy and life.

The obvious flowers are the lilac Scabious and the deep red-purple Knapweed. Their flowers reaching above the herbage to be alighted upon by bees, butterflies and other insects. Other flowers I find are a small Cranesbill, Agrimony, Black Medic, Skullcap (?), White Clover, Bryony, Blackberry, Ragwort, Plantain, Yellow Vetchling and a few other species - as yet unidentified.

The butterflies are amazing. Silently they flutter around the flowers, sometimes dancing, sometimes fighting (?), sometimes still on a flowers, sometimes always on the move and never resting. I see Marbled Whites, Gatekeepers, Ringlets, Large Whites and a brown (Heath Brown?). I watch the bumble bees with loaded pollen sacks on their legs, again possibly five or six varieties buzzing about. Hoverflies and beetles gather around some of the flowers and small Grasshoppers chirrup around me. Occasionally I see them jump around my feet. The are small and so well camouflaged against the browns and greens on the foliage at ground level.

Buzzards and circling nearby, calling. Do I hear a skylark? Another unseen bird flutters in the hedgerow in front of me.

Beside me was an area of set-aside unmown grasses. Just standing and watching the movement of the grasses in the wind was inspiring. A mass of light, feathery, soft, shimmering seed heads all waving and moving en-mass when caught in the breeze. Perhaps almost a mist - a strong blurred movement of the lightest brown, almost irridescent grasses.


Thank you for this place of the dancing butterflies, this hedgerow belonged to them today - theirs to savour the Scabious and Knapweed - amidst the waves of the breeze, the chirping call of grasshoppers and the calling Buzzards. This patch of creativity, of nature in its fullness of fertility and reproduction was a singular patch amidst the surrounding blandness of barley fields. An explosion of colour: lilacs, purples, whites, yellow and pinks amidst the lushness greenness of growth. A place of peace and yet deep creation. I had been asking all week for a deep place of revelation to be shown to me today and this patch of nature doing what it does best seemed to present itself to me on many different levels. Just admiring the striking beauty of the Marbled White butterflies on the Knapweed was one thing. Thinking about how this micro-haven of nature removed my thoughts away from work and life and things was another. I was perhaps most struck at how such a length of hedgerow, perhaps a hundred yards or so in length and away from the reach of the farm sprayer could produce a vidid island of creativity. How much do we dominate nature and quell its creativity, life and beauty? This small area was like a living body in itself, an interrelating system of diversity built upon the connectedness of so many different species. Ecology at its best. But, of course, I do not wish to anthropomorphosize the place as necessarily a place of beauty and with intrinsic natural goodness from the point of view its 'self'. I look upon it from the outside, and for all that live their, each part of the flora and fauna is struggling with survival - a constant synthesis of life and death. As I step away and continue my walk I feel that I am leaving behind something special.

None of this is essentially new to me. What I am attempting to do is to really begin to observe the landscape around me and place it into a psychological framework - and write about it too. I have spent many years just observing, but now I want to think about it in a deeper way. To explore, to be inspired, to learn, to journey...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written Matthew. Last summer I was riding my horse along the road where Scabious grew, and two butterflies danced around the horse and I for quite a distance, before going back to the flowers. It was a magical moment. As you say, amidst all the mayhem of modern farming, these little treasures exist.