Thursday, 21 April 2016

Cherry Blossom and Bluebells

The transition from Winter to Spring this year has seemed indistinct and largely unimpressive. It has been relatively warm and very stormy and this has affected the timing of flowering plants but the thing that really matters now, is that it's warm enough for me to be wearing shorts again.
Blackthorn Blossom Fizzing in the Hedgerows
Bluebells are flooding the woodlands, like some kind of alchemical spell, and the trees are bursting magisterially into their full leafy green grandeur. We took a wonderful walk up on Farley Mount, to see the equine monument there. The pyramid/rocket shaped tribute is supposedly built on top of a Bronze age tumulus, there are several in the vicinity. 
This area is a fabulous spot for a spring picnic - skylarks sing aloft and swallows swoop over the fields below. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Isle of Wight and easily identify Southampton docks and the New Forest.
As we ate our sandwiches my daughter noticed something closer by, a tiny lizard had popped out to sunbathe, right by our feet. We explored further, into the delightful Parnholt Wood, where the Bluebells are in full spate and searched for an ancient bowl barrow that a friend had told me about.
Cherry bloom is now flowering along the bare spindly branches everywhere and the Apple & Pear blossom is starting to appear too. Naturally, you will need to check back in a month or so to ensure that the flowers are turning into immature fruit and this is one of the reasons that I favour tree spotting on my regular routes. 
If you examine the Falling Fruit map, you will notice an abundance of locations about my home town of Southampton, as well as around my work places of Hedge End and Segensworth, where I habitually walk during my lunch hours.
Look Closely in this Puddle
Now is the perfect time to spot where those secret fruit trees have been hiding and we will be leading some local blossom walks soon, so check back regularly for details, which are very likely to be at short notice.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Nine Stones, Wild Garlic & Ransoms

We took an Easter trip down to Devon . About half way, my son and I stopped to stretch our legs and explore the Nine Stones, a 4000 year old stone circle by the side of the main road. If you can ignore the rumble and roar of the traffic, it can be quite a magical spot.
There are obviously some happy hippies that visit this ancient site because we discovered many small good luck tokens wedged into the various crevices of the rocks, which was a nice surprise. I left the 10 cent coin that I received in my change for ghastly coffee in the nearby Happy Chef restaurant.
Behind the stone circle we discovered a whole hillside of Ransoms, the first edible on the Urbane Forager's seasonal calendar. When it is in flower, you often smell these plants before you can see them. We also noted Raspberry canes growing on the spot but it was way too early for any fruit yet.
Wild Garlic is presumably related to Ransoms in some way and this is popping up all over the countryside at this time of year too. Our children always like to pick a leaf of this abundant forage and chew on it to keep hunger at bay, or so they say. Perhaps we should feed them a bit more often...
This year, we may have had Daffodils in January and Plum blossom in February but the beautiful Bluebells are marking time with their normal April schedule. They are beginning to pop up throughout their habitat and soon the woodlands will be carpeted with their delicate ethereal glow.