Week 16 Roundup

Week 16 Roundup: 8th July

With today’s return of Test match cricket, everything suddenly seems terribly normal again. Even the inevitable rain delays add to the sense of ‘business as usual’. We’ve won the toss and, despite a forecast of intermittent mizzle and generally muggy conditions, we’re going to bat. West Indies would have fielded anyway, apparently, so everyone’s happy. I’m off to listen to the opening exchanges.

Well, play eventually started at two, and they were off by quarter past, England scoring one run and losing one wicket in the process. Another half hour lost to rain, then two more overs and now they’re off again. Just two runs added to the total.

Turning away from the cricket for a moment, if you can bear it, Georgina had her first Harebell, Campanula rotundifolia, on the 6th at Blackmoor, Mendip; but she summed up the general mood when she said: “… it always feels like autumn when I see one.”

And I felt a similar ‘stab’ of autumn too, on the 4th at Orchard Wood, when amongst trackside Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, and Upright Hedge-parsley, Torilis japonica,I found my first heads of Common Fleabane, Pulicaria dysenterica. Linda and Chris had already recorded it flowering near Milverton, on 27th June, so I’d been on the look-out for it. What surprised me, though, was how the sight of those flower heads triggered an unexpected flood of memories of childhood summer holidays in Devon, of ripening blackberries, cream teas, scrabble and Ambre Solaire. But those striking yellow blooms brought to the surface less pleasant feelings, too, a stabbing sensation of summer being almost gone—marking, as they always did, the beginning of an unstoppable countdown to the start of a new term, a new school year…

Things may have stalled a little on the first-flowering front in recent days, but here’s Georgina again, who has “nesting spotted flycatchers in the garden plus three baby tawny owls … One of the adults was spied by me early one morning … attempting to catch serotine bats returning to roost, so plenty of nature to amuse me even if I can’t find many new plants.” The first Gatekeepers, Pyronia tithonus, have been seen this week, too.

Yet despite the ‘go slow’, there are still first flowerings to be had: from our target list, I had Stone Parsley, Sison amonum, at Corfe on the 6th, and Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, and Water-pepper, Persicaria hydropiper, beside the River Tone on the 7th. Round-leaved Fluellen, Kickxia spuria, was a bonus while tramping the field-borders between Corfe and Pitminster. Also on the 6th, Andrew saw first-flowering Tubular Water-dropwort, Oenanthe fistulosa, at Max Bog, and Amphibious Bistort, Persicaria amphibia, at Mark Moor. The day before, there were reports from Ro of Burnet-saxifrage, Pimpinella saxifraga, flowering abundantly at East Quantoxhead, and Hawkweed Oxtongue, Picris hieracioides, at Kilton, while Georgina, at Ubley Warren, had her first Stemless Thistle, Cirsium acaule.

And then this morning, Andrew spotted the first few flowers on his local Water Mint, Mentha aquatica, in Brent Knoll village, while I came upon two plants of Small Teasel, Dipsacus pilosus, their flower-heads just beginning to ‘burst’. What a gorgeous plant Small Teasel is, with its understated ‘globose’ heads and whitish flowers, and lacking the brashness and over-confidence of its much larger cousin. Walter Watson’s first flowering dates (FFDs) for Water Mint and Small Teasel in the 1920s/30s were 30th July and 5th August respectively. Capt. Roe’s dates for Small Teasel in the 1950s were even later than that, with six of his eight FFDs being in September.

It may only be the second week of July, but we’re closer to autumn than we think.

England have progressed to 35-1 off 17.4 overs. Bad light’s stopped play, and there’s more rain around, so they’re taking an early tea. I think I’ll do the same.

Have a good week, everyone.