NATURALLY THINKING

By Margaret Waddingham

Articles published in the Caundler Magazine
This April was an unusually dry month and we were beginning to listen anxiously to the weather forecasts.

When the forecasters mention that another dry day is to follow, I wonder why it is that they always mention gardeners but not farmers. Surely it would be better to mention them a bit more often?
To the average gardener what the weather does or does not do is merely an irritating interruption to a very pleasurable hobby, whereas farmers depend on it for their livelihood.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, what the weather did over the winter and early spring this year, everything is looking wonderful now.

And did you see the bluebells? Every year I think they can’t get better, yet once again this year, I think they have been the best yet.

My daughter and son-in-law took me for a drive all round the villages near Bulbarrow one day just when they had reached their peak of perfection. It was a perfect day, not so bright that you couldn’t see things because of the glare, but rather that perfect light that glowed through the lanes of lime green tunnels of leafing trees. There was one lane in particular that had become an avenue of wood anemones that fringed the verges, framing trees and bluebells.
A sight I won’t forget in a hurry.

Out on Genevive one afternoon one day, I stopped to watch an enormous bumblebee working on a yellow rose that peeped through someone’s picket fence.

It was very heavy for the rose, which was a gorgeous buttery yellow single one. It stayed on this flower for what seemed like ages, not tucking any of the pollen away in a pollen sac, because it was probably a male, but gorging on each tiny stamen until – I kid you not – it tipped over backwards and almost fell off!
I like bumble bees, especially the really large, nice cosy, hairy ones that are harbingers of spring and the one I was watching was one of those, called Garden or Rural bumble bees.
Apart from a few birds and butterflies, that was the only thing that seemed that seemed to buzz, creep or fly down the lane, yet when I got back to my garden it was humming with things – bees, bee flies, beetle-y things, some butterflies, including a small blue one, and tiny moths.

My big pond is home to dozens of tadpoles and frogs.

Whilst sitting by the smaller pond, a slow worm made its way around the plants that border it just as something jumped out of the water and vanished from sight amongst some flowers.
Added to this, there are lots of signs that a hedgehog, possibly in the plural, is a regular visitor.

I was so delighted early one morning before 8 o’clock, to hear a cuckoo at our end of the village.

That same day (May 9th), there was one in Stalbridge Weston. I wonder if it was the same one.
The house martins are now serious about nesting instead of just flying round and round their old homes under my roof.
I also have great tits nesting in my nest box on the fence. Their family has now obviously hatched because I can hear them squeaking and both birds are on a non-stop treadmill of going back and forth to feed them.
I have watched them pecking at all sorts of plants, including the roses, helping to decrease the greenfly population I hope, although they are hopelessly outnumbered.
They were also obviously finding tasty infant food around the house martins’ nests and under the guttering.

One day a large ginger cat appeared, perched on the top of the nest box, peering into the hole.

I shouted at it but I only have a very small shout these days and it just looked at me.
I looked round for something to throw. In the end I flung a clothes brush roughly in its direction but I can no longer throw either so it ended up about 6 inches away from my feet.
In the end we stared each other out and finally it moved off, in a very leisurely way, into the apple tree and then, by means of walking on top of the fence, disappeared from view. Fortunately, the great tit parents were back very quickly, but not before I had planned the worst sort of end for all cats that visit my garden.

PS: I’m right off cats.

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.