The verge, on the road down to the beck, is quite broad on one side. Once again this year, a huge bank of Rose Bay Willow Herb has appear out of nowhere. What, over winter, had become almost bare ground, with a few wisps of grass here and there, is now a bank of plants three or four feet high.
Google knows a great deal about Rose Bay Willow Herb. As with most of the information on the Internet, many of the sources are contradictory – but all of them are very authoritative. I thought I’d pass on a selection of the wisdom of the world so you could pick out the pieces that appeal to you.
One option is that this is a native of North America. It was brought over to Europe as a garden plant, escaped and made itself at home. Next, we have it as a native of the Russian tundra. Here, they have been using the leaves to make tea and fermenting the pith of the stems to make beer for ever. Then, there’s the opinion that it was known here, in the north of England, before its supposed importation – but was considered very rare.
This is an amazing plant – most of it is edible or drinkable, it can be used medicinally to cure a range of ills – from typhoid to nappy rash, and it grows in huge banks of glorious purple in summer and the leaves turn a fiery red in autumn.
And what do we do with this, natures bountiful largess?
I woke up this morning and looked out on, what has become, a pretty normal scene. In the distance, at about where it would be nice to see the sun shining on the slopes of the Cumbrian mountains, there was a vague grey wall. Here and there the occasional tree faded in and out of view. To say I was tempted to lie straight down and pull up the duvet, is only to tell you the obvious, but it wasn’t to be so. The Dog awaited, impatiently, her opportunity to check all the local canine points of reference – and it’s hard to get any sleep with a dog’s paws dug into parts of your anatomy and a wet nose stuck into any available eye or ear.
By the time I reached the necessary state of readiness, the view through the window had changed, the mountains had thrown off their blankets and were prepared to take on the day. There was quite a wind and the greyness overhead was moving along at a good pace.
Now, a couple of days ago, I took some pictures of the Rose Bay Willow Herb and they were covered in a fine fluff, I could say a fine thistledown, but I don’t want any thistles who read this to take umbrage. The picture we have today is one flower in a vast fluffy, pinky-purple bank of those Rose Bay Willow Herbs, over all of which the white, downy seeds were poised, sitting on the branch outside the nest, chirping excitedly to each other.
Today, the roadside verge is bare – the birds have flown.