NATURALLY THINKING

By Margaret Waddingham

Articles published in the Caundler Magazine

Driving around in mid-April was like driving through a bubble of blossom. As far as the eye could see,
verges and hedgerows were a mass of Blackthorn mixed with wild, white Cherry and the fat, pink buds of
rogue Apples that make small, unexpected orchards here and there. In the verges, spring grasses were
already covering Violets, Primroses were being overtaken by Stitchwort and Bluebells, and Cow Parsley
was frothing over it all. Things had got a bit out of kilter. The Blackthorn was late and the Bluebells
early, but who cares? It made a heady mix.
Cowslips are one of my favourite flowers and it’s always good to see so many of them round here. Did
you know the name is a polite form of cowslop or cowpat? I’m glad someone had the good sense to
alter it slightly. My book tells me that to make the best wine, collect the flowers in May or June.
Interesting that. It was only reprinted with amendments in 1988, but doesn’t it just go to show how our
seasons have changed recently? I think you’d be hard put to find even one flower out in June these
days.
The swallows are back in the village. At the beginning of April, a friend rang to say one had arrived in
her stable and was sitting on a beam looking rather out of breath and relieved that his journey was over.
Most of these little birds keep up an average speed of 30mph, though apparently they can reach 100mph
when they’re after a good meal. Since they catch insects on the wing, I suppose they need this turn of
speed. Their large wings and tails enable them to change direction rapidly and they have a particularly
large mouth behind their bill which enables them to snap up insects in the air. So far, no house martins
have been spotted, and, of course, the little swift will be the last to arrive.
Early butterflies have been around for a few weeks; Yellow Brimstones, Orange Tips, Small Tortoiseshells
and Peacocks, and this week the first Large White flitted idly through the garden. Butterflies are some of
our most beautiful creatures and undoubtedly the least destructive, though there are those who like to
grow cabbages without holes who may disagree. Trouble is, you can’t have a butterfly without a
caterpillar. There are over 70 different species found regularly in Britain and they can live from a week
to a year in butterfly form. Many are masters of camouflage. In India there is a Leaf Butterfly that you
would sweep up with the rest of the garden rubbish and not notice until it flew away; there is an Owl
Butterfly from Africa that looks more like an owl than an owl, and our own Peacock butterfly has those
startling ‘eyes’ on the wings that fool any predator into thinking that it had better not tangle with it.
Mining Bees are busy in our front lawn again. These are similar to Honey Bees but they are solitary,
smaller and less furry. They are sometimes called ‘Lawn Bees’ for obvious reasons. Each female makes
a nest which can sometimes be up to an incredible two feet. She digs this with her fore feet, brushes
the earth behind her with her hind feet and the earth left scattered around the entrance helps to conceal
it. Every time she visits a flower she can bring back her own weight in pollen, which she rolls into a ball
with nectar. On this she lays an egg and then closes up each cell. After she has made about six cells,
she returns to the surface and dies. She is an important pollinator of fruit trees so I’m glad we have
ours. Our two small apple trees do remarkably well – presumably thanks partly to them.

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.