I often mention the beck at the bottom of the hill in these missives. I thought it was about time it took a bow, particularly while the trees are still (mostly) leafless and so allow a little sunlight through.
Round by the railway crossing – about a mile upstream – a hundred years ago, it used to turn a mill wheel. The line of small trees that formed a hedge along the old mill race – or lade – now wander over the bare hillside – noticeably holding an unnatural level. The hedge quickly disappears, but its height on the hill hints that its connection to the beck was some distance higher up the valley.
Here, by our ‘Pooh Sticks’ bridge, it is in a much more relaxed frame of mind and happy to chortle, to itself or anyone else willing to listen, as it makes its way, now slow, broad and shallow, now fast flowing between steep banks, under our bridge and off through the fields of cattle and sheep. At this time of year it welcomes a sprinkling of sunlight through the bare branches. Later, in the summer, it will slide, quietly whispering, through a green and secret, leafy tunnel.
Often, when we pass this way, we will drop a stick in on the upstream side of the bridge, then step quickly over to watch for it to appear out from the other side. Just to check that the beck is still functioning correctly.
The nicest picture we have taken this week is of Purple Deadnettle. The Deadnettle part refers to its lack of those fine coiled hairs that give normal (The Un-Dead) nettles their antisocial sting. As our Deadnettle has no sting in the head or tail, naturally we eat it. Well, some people eat it. It is rather bitter they say – although I can’t comment on the veracity or otherwise of this. If I remember, I’ll taste a leaf or two and report back.
It’s an early spring plant, spreading out like a dark green and purple carpet, taking advantage of the absence of other contenders for space in amongst the winter-dried leaves and stems of last years growth.
If you were to harvest some and dry it could be very useful in magic. It has a reputation for promoting cheerful vitality and tenacious persistence. With its small bright flowers, appearing in barren patches of roadside verge and hedgerow after the drab sameness of winter, that is certainly well deserved.
This week we have a nice picture of Lungwort. Would you be surprised if I were to tell you that “infusions of Lungwort should be quite safe for most normal healthy people to take”? A herbal remedy for healthy people, then.
Apparently, it does all sorts of cool stuff with free radicals and other things that are currently in vogue, although it is also still used to cure coughs and sore throats. The free radical association comes from some reasonably recent research, but its use to treat coughs and colds has no backing other than that people have been using it for thousands of years.
I have to confess that I find – everyone is doing it – of very little comfort.
Perhaps we had better move right along to pointing out that the flowers are often a pretty shade of pink when they open and turn blue and violet as they mature. This strange behaviour makes it very attractive as a garden plant. It is low growing, a couple of inches high at the most, and grows well in shade – in fact it prefers shade. So, all in all, a good plant for those bare places under trees and bushes where nothing will grow. Whether you have a cough and a sore throat or not.
We keep the most ferocious of our wild daffodils caged up safely – as you can tell from this poem I wrote in April 2013. Apologies to those who don’t understand Cockney rhyming slang – and apologies to those who know how to speak it properly.
Roll hup. Roll hup, me gentlefolk. Roll hup. Roll hup, me dears.
‘ere we ‘ave a hanimal, ferocious, wild and fierce.
‘e’s wild and fierce an hugly has you can plainly see.
Some days ‘e ‘as a hargument an ‘e eats ‘is Nan for tea.
Hi keeps ‘im caged hup safely, don’t want to cause a scare,
an hif by chance ‘e gets hupset, I’ll subdue ‘im wiv me chair.
Jus’ look at hall them ‘ampsteads! If yer promise not to larff
Hi’ll venture hin there wiv ‘im, an stick me loaf hin ‘is norf an saaf.