NATURALLY THINKING

By Margaret Waddingham

Articles published in the Caundler Magazine

In June I went up my usual lanes with the purpose of counting insects

One fine, warm day in June, I went up my usual lanes with the purpose of counting how many insects I could see.

Up Holt Lane I spotted a tiny iridescent beetle, one bumble bee and several butterflies. Down Rowden Mill Lane I found about six bumble bees and several little brown butterflies, probably gatekeepers.
I was, of course, only counting what I could see on the nearest edge of the verges and probably if I had been able to actually walk on them I might have seen a few more. Even so, it was rather depressing. I mentioned this to a friend I met on the way back saying that I seemed to have many more in my own garden than I had seen that afternoon.
He said that perhaps we are now becoming so conscious of planting lots of flowers with insects in mind in our gardens that anything that flies has moved on mass away from verges.
A few nights later, I couldn’t sleep so I put the light on and read for a while. My curtains were not completely closed and the windows were wide open. It occurred to me that the room would soon be full of moths but there wasn’t one.
Some days later another friend drew up beside me in her car. I said ‘Oh good, your windscreen is smothered with dead flies.’ She looked at me sadly as though I had completely lost the plot and I explained that I had been searching for insects, dead or alive. She drove off shortly after that. I can’t remember whether it was because we were blocking the road or because she doubted my sanity. When I got home, my garden was noisy with the sound of bees, but they were all bumble bees of several sorts and various hover flies. Only two honey bees. Still, that was better than nothing, but oh Tim, if you still have some,please direct them to my end of the village! By mid July, numbers have increased but nothing like the numbers that should be buzzing around. I found the top flowers of hogweeds that had quite a lot of little orange beetles doing their bit and one afternoon after a morning of rain, the garden was once again filled with all sorts of things that buzzed, flew or fluttered.

However, numbers everywhere are down and it is a very sobering problem.

40% of insects are at present declining and one third of this number is dropping faster than mammals, birds and reptiles. At this rate, they will vanish completely by the end of the century.
I couldn’t bear to read any more – ostrich-like I prefer to bury my head in the sand, continue, like many of us. to plant as many nectar-rich plants as I can in my garden and hope there will be a miracle to turn the forecasted tragedy around.

I thought my big pond – the one Steve dug for me last year – had a leak.

The water level seemed to be going down at an alarming rate, and even allowing for the strength of the sun these days, I was beginning to think this must be due to something more serious than evaporation. I had to keep asking people to fill it up for me.
I still had quite a lot of tadpoles with minute back legs developing and I was putting their slow rate of development down to the effect that the tap water was having on them as it was so constantly being
added to their watery home.
One day at the beginning of July, the level seemed to drop even faster and having asked for it to be completely filled to the brim one weekend, by Thursday I found to my horror that there was no more than a couple of inches left in the deepest part and the pump for my bubbling rock was making a most alarming noise. By the next day when Steve came hurrying round to see what was happing, there was just a very small puddle left.

Steve looked at it and almost immediately said, ’I think I know what the problem is.’

I had allowed some self-seeded mimulus to have their wicked way just beside my rock. They looked very pretty, full of flower and getting bigger by the day. The trouble was that, unseen by us mere mortals,
the wretched things had spread their roots further and further beneath my rock, taking soil, stones, and even chunks of clay with them until the water was re-directed to the bed behind the pond instead of back into it. Steve yanked the whole lot up, refilled it and it’s been full ever since.
It will be interesting to see whether it drops dramatically when it stops raining, but I doubt whether it will. What’s more, six of my minute little tadpoles have survived their trauma. Resilient little things, aren’t they? I do hope they finally become frogs.
I have learnt my lesson – no more self-seeded anything will ever be allowed to stay anywhere near my bubbling rock.

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.