This was a blog I wrote in the summer when ripe, delicious cherries were coming into the shops. Just a little reminder of those few summer days we had!
At this time of the year with cherries in the shops I bore everyone with my stories of walking in the Kentish cherry orchards before they were grubbed up for planting tasteless, golden delicious apples for the European market.
I had friends who lived near the orchards and like everyone else enjoyed the wonderful flowering in the spring. Then when we took the dog for long walks through the orchards we refreshed ourselves with flavourful, delicious, succulent cherries. The juice just ran down your chin and there was real taste. I have never tasted any others that come near those Naploleons. Rich, dark red and maroon bordering on black…… scrummy! And there were plenty to buy in the local shops.
Then to find a few weeks later that the beautiful majestic trees had been grubbed up, piled into huge pyres and were slowly smouldering with their life ebbing away. Tragic and very strangely predictive of future scenes of rainforest devastation but here right under our noses all in the name of short-term profit.
Fortunately there are many cherry orchards still in Herefordshire, a county less “progressive” than Kent or just further away from London. But so many cherries now are flown in from around the world, even the USA, with no flesh or taste and are exorbitantly expensive.
Just as, in so many things, costing the earth.
We were awoken by a huge crash of thunder sounding over head. Then the rain started and continued heavily all morning. By mid-day the lane was flooding and all traffic ceased. A huge difficulty for a rural, farming community.
We were just settling down to watch the Wimbledon semi-final when our kind neighbour came to see if we were ok. By then, the flood was coming in the drive, filling the forecourt and starting to flood down the steps in a waterfall. It happened so quickly with power of the water frighteningly awesome.
Fortunately, it started to recede as quickly leaving behind mud and debris. Just as we thought it was over, the rain started heavily again and the flood built up again but not so severely. At 6.30pm traffic is on the move again.
The birds never stopped feeding. What a hard summer it has been for them.
We have had rain for the last 5 days. Every kind of rain, lashing, gentle, and soaking. The birds are bedraggled, hungry and so wet that their feathers are soaked and beaks muddy. The finches are back to winter feeding flocks while the blackbirds and mistle thrushes stagger on trying to defend their nests, feed themselves and feed the nestlings while keeping them dry. Once the nest floods then the nestlings will die. It hasn’t just been the unrelenting rain but the finger-numbing, tingling cold of temperatures barely above freezing, And then today, the gusty, strong freezing wind getting into every nook and cranny, bending the trees, flattening the plants and ripping off leaves of plants hoping for sun and a gentle breeze.
There’s no doubt we badly need the rain. This will help the famers but because the ground has been so dry, the sudden onslaught of fierce, sudden rain is running off the surface and not penetrating deep into the earth to nourish the deep roots of the big trees. There have been flash floods and will be more today, not least because houses have been built on land that is a flood plain or even drained ponds.
As the wet day ends, the blackbird sings, wet and bedraggled as he is, hoping that tomorrow will dawn bright and sunny with the promise that spring really is on its way. Courting and nest-building will have to start all over again meaning a very late spring. This time last year we were having barbecues, fires were finished and the first nestlings were out into the wide world. So much for global warming….
Early this morning, at just before 6.0am, a dunnock softly ushered in the dawn chorus. It’s sweet song was repeated to wake everyone and announce that a new day had begun and they were still about guarding their territory. Then the robin joined in and the blackbird in with it’s full-throated song, trills and whistles.
As the light strengthened and brightened, the chorus stopped as the birds went off to feed. Then they started up again and last to join were the resident ring-collar doves cooing away in the lower registers.
Another day of feeding, mating, strutting and displaying as the temperature rises and the daylight increases.
I remember standing on the roof of a house on the edge of the desert in Jordan many years ago while the sun set as the full moon rose.
Today I saw a very different sunset and rising moon here in England at the end of a blustery, cold, spring day.
The jackdaws sailed over the trees, expertly using the strong wind to glide, bank, dip and drop. The small birds use the nearby hedge and trees to shelter and then alight on the feeders. They scatter and then return until there was a swift shadow passing rapidly over the garden which swooped into the edge of the tree where the small birds gather. The sparrow hawk had returned. There was a deathly silence for quite a time until they gradually gained confidence and returned to chatter and feed.
By the end of the day the wind had completely dropped, the clouds disappeared and there was a beautiful, clear sunset.
After a soft, warm, gentle start to the month of March, the winter has returned. The birds were starting to pair off and claim their territories when a bitter wind blew up and after strong rain, the snow and sleet began. Fortunately, it didn’t lie but the cold wind meant that the bird feeders were being queued at for access and even the unpopular round peanut feeder had 3 bluetits hungrily nibbling the peanuts.
By the time I had returned from a short shopping trip we had encountered a large flock of 50 redwings in the fields along the lane and then perching in an ash tree. There were also a pair of buzzards circling low over the field, quartering the valley in a hunt for prey. As we parked, there was a female greater spotted woodpecker on the bottom peanut feeder and the sunflower seed feeder was already three quarters empty. The gold finches had returned as well as blue tits, great tits, green finches, chaffinches, sparrows and robins. There was also a moorhen down on the grass which has come quite a way from the nearest water to look for food. Often there are 3 of them and last year my neighbour had a duck nesting in a shrub on their wall. After 2 weeks there were 12 ducklings being led in a line down to the nearest pond.
Now the sun is out but the wind is still bitter and very strong. We still have a long way to go before the end of March and the official start of spring. Sadly, the daffodils which are just coming into flower are being battered by the strong, bitter wind. March, in like a lion, but hopefully out like a lamb. Which brings me on to the lambing season, just starting here……