NATURALLY THINKING

By Margaret Waddingham

Articles published in the Caundler Magazine

Did you know that, on average, five acres of grassland contain about one ton of insects? What’s more, one
acre of hay meadow may contain 2.25 million spiders and as each spider eats approximately two insects per
week, they consume around 108 million insects between them! Astonishing, isn’t it? I’m not showing off, just
reading up one or two things to make up for not being able to walk around Lydlinch and Alners Gorse this
year. When I do manage to get there, I often find myself peering at spiders. The only one I can readily
identify is the Purse Spider whose web is like the inverted finger of a glove. Tickle the ‘finger’ with a blade of
grass and a little round, brown fellow appears for a split second to see what it’s got for tea, then disappears
again when it realises that it’s been fooled.
In a lane not far from here, germander, speedwell, hogweed, red clover, buttercups and mint jostle for
position amongst the lush grass. Amongst them all the sturdy butterfly orchids stood proud. These aren’t
particularly rare or even unusual but they certainly are less common than the common spotteds that flower
in late May and early June and it was an enormous pleasure to see so many of them.
Butterfly orchids do what it says on the can – they look like butterflies, though they’re pollinated by night-
flying moths. Last year we had a good spring for these little creatures: this year it has been cooler and there
have not been so many of them. So there may not be such a good crop of this lovely orchid next year. It’s
been a bit chilly and windy for many of our butterflies too, but hopefully things will perk up for them in the
next two months – the time when they really should come into their own.
The bullfinches, upon which I reported in the last issue, are still with us so we hope they’re planning to stay.
They must be nesting quite nearby but I seem to blink each time they fly off and I’m not sure which direction
they take. Not long ago these little birds were on the red endangered species list but now their numbers are
up and they are back on amber. The RSPB has a red list for birds in severe trouble either here or globally,
an amber list for those which have declined between 1800-1995 but are now recovering, or those that have
declined in the past 25 years. The green list is for those that do not seem to be in any trouble at all. By far
the greatest number fall into the amber category, which, I suppose, could be either good or bad news
according to whether they are coming back or declining.
Blackbirds, I’m pleased to say are on the green list, which is good news for us as well as Mr Bocelli and his
offspring. He doesn’t call quite so regularly at the moment, though on the days he does arrive his visits come
thick and fast. If we are in the garden he will come and find us and, making his point quite forcefully, will
run in front of us to the French doors, hop on the step, dismount while we pass, then is on the mat before
you can say ‘knife’ (or in his case, ‘sultanas’). There is absolutely no mistaking what he wants. I’m not sure
whether he’s on his second or third brood of the year, but whatever it is, that’s pretty good going for an
elderly gent like him.
A friend reported in mid-June on a Little Egret that arrived in Roper’s Field and remained there for an hour
and a half, hardly moving. This does seem unusual. All the ones we spotted earlier in the year seemed to be
intent on feeding before they disappeared in early spring. We assumed they’d gone to find somewhere to
nest, perhaps nearer to water, as they are usually found near water margins. Quite what this one was doing
I’m not sure. Perhaps it was trying to get over its disappointment when it discovered that the field was so dry
it couldn’t dig for something tasty.

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.