NATURALLY THINKING

By Margaret Waddingham

Articles published in the Caundler Magazine

It had been too windy and chilly for butterflies for a few days, but one fine morning around coffee time in mid-
September, we had a sudden rush of them round the garden – two Red Admirals, a Comma, and a Tortoiseshell, accompanied by a Humming Bird Hawkmoth.
Butterflies have had a bad time of it this year because of the cold summer, and tortoiseshells have been exceptionally rare.
As for the Humming Bird Hawkmoth, I don’t think I’ve seen one for at least a couple of years. This is a
marvellous little creature which you could be forgiven for mistaking for the real thing. It hovers over the
flowers, unrolling its long tongue which it uses exactly as a humming bird would use its beak, to suck at the
nectar. It is about 1.5 ins long, brown and orange in colour and migrates here from southern Europe, often
flying 100 miles a day and arriving from June onwards, though I usually seem to see them in late August and
September when they make straight for the Cosmos.
I read in the BVM that there were hardly any earwigs around this year. Oh, come on! Where has the writer of
that piece been hiding? Our garden is full of them and almost everyone we speak to has seen plenty. Brian,
like a lot of other gardeners, plants a cane with an inverted plant pot full of paper next to his Dahlias. He has
caught a number of them this way, but the real winner in the earwig trapping stakes has been a rather old
peanut holder on the arbour, the gently rotting wooden top of which seems to attract whole tribes of them. At
first he dispatched them, cleanly and clinically, but having heard that they were good aphid gobblers, he
changed tactics and released them on the grass outside our side wall. Whether this was a wise move or not I
don’t know, but the numbers that are now congregating in the wooden lid are phenomenal – sometimes up to
between 40 and 50 at a time in less than a week.
Did you know that earwigs make fantastic mothers? She lays her eggs – between 20 and 80 of them – in
autumn beneath a stone or in a crevice, and she then stays by them, licking them from time to time to make
sure they don’t go mouldy. That’s a very motherly thing to do and quite astonishing that such a tiny creature
has anything in its head, let alone an instinct like that.
Incidentally, I do admire the dedicated people who find out things like these. I hope you don’t think I have all
this knowledge stored away in my brain because I’m not that clever – I just gather up information and pass it
on!
Going for a gentle drive down one of the narrow lanes near here around mid-September, we came across a hen
pheasant with three tiny fluffy chicks. As always with pheasants she didn’t know quite which way to go and
passed on her panic to her chicks. It took her quite a bit of time to decide which verge to hide on and make
sure her offspring were with her. It seems very late for such small things.
According to the pundits, there has been a plague of very large spiders this year. We certainly seem to have
had a few more than usual, often hovering on the stairs, in the bathroom or just outside a door. They’ve
probably been lurking somewhere inside the house all year, but at the moment they’re on the look out for a
mate, so have a heart – don’t swallow them up in a hoover bag because they’re only doing what comes
naturally.
And by the way, they really do try to find their way home, so it’s no use just plonking them outside the door
because in no time they’ll be back in again. One of these days, when I’m feeling exceptionally brave, I’ll try to
put a coloured dot on one and try to prove this – that’s if I ever manage to catch one!

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.