April 25th. Spring has arrived, wild flowers are blooming and migratory birds arriving.
Hawthorn ('May') is the dominant hedgerow tree across Cheshire, and is just starting to blossom after the recent warm weather. The old saying 'Ne'er cast a clout till May be out' is taken by some to mean that warm clothing should be worn until the hawthorn is blossoming, 'May' being an alternative name for hawthorn. This blossoming, as usual, follows on from that of blackthorn, which is scarcer across the Parish but flowered in profusion this spring. Some examples can be found at the Millennium Green. This suggests there may be sloes to be foraged in the autumn, assuming pollination has been successful, and the weather appropriate. The Parish Council hedgerow planting, now up to 3.5km (or just over 2 miles, if you prefer) tends to use five or six different hedge plants, but hawthorn dominates and we add in blackthorn, dog rose, guelder rose, field maple, hazel and occasional alder buckthorn to create a more diverse hedge that supports a wider range of wildlife. There will therefore be more sloes across the Parish in years to come, ready for all the winter sloe gin...
Cuckooflower, or Lady's smock, is now flowering. Apparently, the flowering coincides with the arrival of the cuckoo, hence the name, though when one was last heard calling around Henbury is a point of interest! It is the county flower of Cheshire and can be quite common in fields that haven't had a lot of agricultural 'input'.
Many of the woodlands of Henbury have an excellent showing of bluebells, and this week they seem to be at their peak. The example below is by School Lane, south of Henbury Hall. If you haven't seen them it's well worth a viewing.
Our tree planting activities are also showing good returns. A field corner between Chelford Rd and Whirley Road which was planted in spring 2015 with 80 trees is looking healthy, with the five apple trees looking full of blossom and the surrounding crab apples, hazel, hawthorn and blackthorn showing signs that they'll be providing wildlife with valuable food in a few years' time.
Those out and about may have heard the song of some of the newly arrived warblers — blackcaps and chiffchaffs appeared as usual at the end of March, and small numbers are often heard around the Millennium Green and along Dark Lane, on the edge of the village. Two days ago a whitethroat was singing along the path between Henbury Rise and Moss Cottages, although probably passing through. Swallows and house martins don't seem to have arrived in any number yet, though perhaps the recent warm spell will now encourage them to head north. Keep your eyes — and ears — open!
Thanks to Simon Browne for sending in this lovely piece and beautiful photos.
We'd love to have even more photos of Henbury plants and wildlife — do please send details of sightings and/or photos to the Henbury Webteam at firstname.lastname@example.org