Ox-eye daisies flowering in God's acre down in the village . . .
This blog has been born of my desire to share my love of the countryside with anyone who is interested. I was fortunate enough to have been born at a time when parents had a knowledge of country things - my parents had both been born in the country but moved to the town. I grew up being able to ask what that bird or this flower was and being told the name and often the country nickname too - I have always called Wagtails 'pollydishwashers' for instance.
I grew up on the outskirts of Southampton, one half of our "garden" was wild, with Damson trees where the Nightingales sang on hot summer nights and a glorious tangle of gorse and broom where we made camps in the summer. Yarrow and Bladder Campion grew at the lawn-edge, and we had a dry stony soil in banks around a triangle of land where my dad grew strawberries. Here lived the lizards and slow-worms. Kids used to come from miles around to try and catch them! I grew up learning how to recognize and handle reptiles. How they would first wee on you in an attempt to get you to let go of them, and if that didn't work, they would drop their tail. I cringe now at the memory of both a common lizard, with its beautiful skin pattern in browns and beiges, and one of the ubiquitous slow-worms, who varied from deep chocolate brown to almost silvery, dropping their tails whilst being held captive by my curiosity.
When I was about six, a neighbour's daughter who was a couple of years older was doing a project for school where you had to identify wild flowers and press them into a scrap book, and thus began my life-long interest in botany. I'm not an expert - I know more than many people, not as much as others, but I continually try and extend my knowledge. I can still recall where I first saw such-and-such - the highlight of my (botanical) life being the first time I saw Viper's Bugloss growing in Dorset (near the village of Kingston in the Purbecks). It was one of the coloured illustrations in my Observer's Book of Wild Flowers which I got when I was 6 or 7 and with its pink and blue flowers it looked so exotic.
I enjoy watching birds and identifying them here in our Welsh garden. We have nothing exotic, but I love to see the Nuthatches and 'Woody Woodpecker' arrive, and I will shortly do a post of our visitors to the nut nets and try and get some photos. Where my camera has not captured something I write about, I shall rely on that marvellous resource Creative Commons Search.
In sharing what little knowledge I have, I should love this to become a resource for parents and children alike, as well as those of you who have an innate interest in the countryside but are living in town, or even in another country. This, I hope, will go some way to replacing the Nature Table we always had in my Junior school and which is now just a dim and distant memory in the education of children.