NATURALLY THINKING

By Margaret Waddingham

Articles published in the Caundler Magazine

The recent months have given nature a breathing space

A chance to see what the world would be like without the heavy hand of man putting his foot in it, if you’ll pardon my mixed metaphors.

Many birds, but especially those ground nesting ones, are doing better than usual.

We are much more conscious of bird song now that they don’t have to compete with the roar of traffic and planes. All over the country there is a growing movement of people who have become involved in gardening which benefits nature enormously.
Road kills have been dramatically reduced (very good news for toads I am told) and delays in verge cutting have meant that wild flowers are having an exceptional time, bringing an explosion of colour to the eye and pollen to the pollinators. Butterflies are doing rather well too, as are insects generally, perhaps because there aren’t so many windscreens upon which they can kill themselves. And of course, shrinking pollution belts everywhere have greatly improved the air quality giving us a glimpse of what things would be like with greatly reduced fossil fuels.
So when all this finally ends, could we possibly maintain just a small level of sustainability for this improvement? Perhaps more people will work from home lessening the demand for more and more roads and public transport. Maybe we will think twice before jumping into our cars to reach beauty spots and beaches but keep up with a newly found interest in cycling and walking. Maybe the airliners will have to prune back a little. Maybe.
Here in England we luxuriated in the warm and dry weather, of April, although farmers and growers were once again the losers. After the flooded fields during the wettest winter on record delaying crop planting, they then watched in disbelief as those same fields became cracked and arid.
We, on the other hand, enjoyed it, breathing in warm, clean air and revelling in the wealth of wild flowers. Everywhere things seemed to be in bloom all around us. My favourite outing for Genevieve and me (in other words my daily exercise) is up Holt Lane as far as the road will take me before it gives way to footpaths, then back again and down Rowden Mill Lane. The succession of wild flowers in Holt Lane was wonderful. One day towards mid-April I counted 21 varieties.
I came across Harry one day, tidying up the plastic sleeves around the sapling oaks that the Council filled in between the older ones, many of which had died. I asked if he knew who had planted the original ones, and he told me that it was Oliver Simon some 45 years ago. Can there be any better legacy to give a village than a whole avenue of trees?
The nice thing about Genevieve is that I am able to ‘amble‘, stopping frequently to catch sight of a particular bird or to examine the latest flower or insect. It is a lark filled place, filling the air with song. Holt Lane especially seemed to be alive with butterflies this year – yellow brimstones, peacocks, tortoiseshells, orange tips, holly blues, cabbage whites – sometimes they seem to get caught up in a stream of one way traffic and accompany me for several yards. And of course the views there are spectacular, with the distant hills of Blackmoor Vale rising up mistily and here and there glimpses of outlying homes and farms. I was delighted to find some milkmaids out in Rowden Mill Lane. – only a few but I’ve not seen them there before.
There are two places in the hedgerow where I have often heard a bird chattering away with a rich, varied and musical song. I have a feeling that it may be a siskin but I’m really not very clever on birdsong. I stop as near to it as I can and although I can place where it is coming from, I can never see it. People keep telling me that they have watched hares in the fields down here but they are out of range for Genevieve and me.
The house martins are back in their summer residences beneath the gutters at the front and back of my house. They make an awful mess once the babies come along, but I do love their friendly chatter near my bedroom window. I have only seen the occasional swallow and all who I meet say there are not nearly as many around as there used to be.
I haven’t heard a cuckoo either, but my Hazlebury daughter says that there has been one cuckooing away in the fields behind them every morning for days. She has also heard one in Piddle Woods, and a friend who walks on Lydlinch Common in the early mornings recently has heard one joining in with at least six nightingales.
It seems that whatever happens to us lot – humans, I mean – nature seems to be thriving on it. At least we have that to be thankful for.

About Margaret

Margaret WaddinghamI was born in Middlesex in 1935 and educated at a convent in Rickmansworth. In 1954 I moved with my family to Cranleigh in Surrey where I met and married Brian. We have two daughters and five grandchildren.
For 21 happy years we lived on the outskirts of Guildford, moving to Hatherleigh in North Devon when our children had fled the nest to get on with their own lives.

My love of writing goes back many years but it was not until I retired from RHS Rosemoor Gardens in 1995 that I was able to devote more time to this and my other favourite pursuits, gardening and the countryside.

For many years I was a regular contributor of short stories, poetry, nature and other articles to three women’s national weeklies, periodical regional magazines and local newspapers. I also had a book of the history of a neighbouring village and a couple of books of poetry published.

One day our daughters phoned to suggest, very gently, that they couldn’t get to us quickly in an emergency and that’s how we ended up in Stourton Caundle.

We couldn’t have chosen a better place and although Brian sadly passed away in 2018, I have come to appreciate the village more and more.

Genevieve (my mobility scooter for those who haven’t met us) and I wander the local lanes, drinking in all that is around me and when I can no longer do this I will still have a small, peaceful garden to sit in where nature comes to visit me.