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April Ramblings

2nd May 2022 @ 3:03pm – by Henbury Webteam
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dandelionsdandelion clock

"April is the cruellest month" wrote T S Eliot in The Waste Land.

It certainly seemed to be.

Cold wet start to the month – late March slid seamlessly into early April. Nonetheless, outside Moss Cottage the bluebells were up (actually the first to come were the white variety) but not yet in flower. Frogspawn in our pool had de-blobbed and spread out – embryos now becoming visible.

Dot the Dog forgave us for her stay at the "health farm" and was eating anything in sight. She hides the odd biscuit under her bed to be eaten before the morning walk. She seems to be amassing a vast collection of balls lost by other dogs and insists on bringing them home.

Fresh vehicle tracks in the flood field one early April afternoon – boundaries checked, fences to be mended and cattle to come soon no doubt. S once chatted to the farmer about the cattle. The steers were contracted to Marx and Spensive and the stipulation was that they could only be moved twice – first from winter quarters to summer grazing and second to – well, use your imagination... Tracklements hot horseradish sauce recommended here at Havoc House (I am not paid a commission).

Mid-first week of the month Covid hit Havoc House and we went into quarantine – both feeling pretty seedy. The worst thing is fatigue, the least physical effort needing a long rest after.

Nonetheless, Dot the Dog needs her walks and they don't require close contact with other people – they did lead to a feeling of exhaustion however (on my part). We were looking out for developments on the wildflower front, but everything in the fields seemed rather delayed.

By mid-month Covid was still in charge and frequent rests remained the order of the day. There were however some brighter things. The white "bluebells" came into flower. Our damson, apple and pear trees were in, or coming into, flower. Serendipity brought a self-seeded Ladies' Smock plant into our garden (regular readers will know that we have a rather "wild" garden). It is not in the best position (actually, that's a non-sequitur because the thing found its own home so must be happy there!) and will be relocated to somewhere we think better (from our point of view)... Even more spirit-raising was the appearance of our marsh and common spotted orchids. They should be in flower in a few weeks.

A pair of Grey Lag geese appeared briefly in the field in front of the cottages. They were presumably in transit to their summer quarters, overnighting before moving on. At last the first Ladies' Smock appeared in the fields – and we found a self-sown borage plant beside our hedge with lovely blue flowers, at least a few of which will go into our next G&Ts! Serendipity again but maybe not too popular with "serious" gardeners.

A couple of ravens were calling one morning, presumably visiting from Alderley Edge. They come from time to time. A pair of kestrels about too, although their hunting ground will be much limited now by the excavations. I thought of the Tom Lehrer song "Little Boxes" (and that firmly dates me as a student in the Sixties). A pair of collar doves are about – last year the sparrow hawk finished off their predecessors so I hope they have more luck.

Another sunny afternoon allowed the Covid-weary to watch the solitary bees exploring our bee-houses – and hopefully laying eggs. A steady traffic of bees between the apple blossom and the bee nests is encouraging and certainly some of the tubes are sealed with mud. We hope to watch the new brood emerge in due course. Mostly there were mason bees, but a leaf-cutter appeared briefly and will hopefully use the rose leaves for building.

Artificial wasps' nests put up in trees – wasps are very territorial and won't build if they find another nest nearby. A talk last year by a scientist from the John Innes Institute put us on to "Waspinators" (dummy nests), and they seem to work; we had few wasps around the house. Again – not on commission!

Over the fields a walk with Dot the Dog revealed a parade-ground line of mole hills alongside the building boundary. Presumably a Great Escape from the excavations although I can't quite see Mole in "Wind in the Willows" doing a Steve McQueen. On the other hand, imagine Toad on a Harley..!

The end of the month – two weeks of warm dry weather, needing watering for containers in the garden and a top-up for the pool. The big field-flood is definitely drying but still extends well into the building site. The "candles" on the horse chestnut trees have "lit up" and we have seen peacock, brimstone and orange-tip butterflies (gardeners watch out – the whites are about looking out your brassicas!). Ravens again spotted pottering around the fields, looking for leatherjackets.

It has been a remarkable year for dandelions. A trip to Leek via the top road from Rushton Spencer, and another to Marton on the A34 revealed acres of yellow flowers in the roadside grazing fields – and in a few days as the seedheads develop it will look as though there had been a snowstorm.

I remain...

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