Potwell Inn regulars will know that I get a bit grumpy when people take the therapeutic powers of nature as the fixed and immutable reward for stepping outside the door. Hand on heart I suspect I’m a victim of the protestant work ethic that guarantees there’s no gain without plenty of pain. I lay the blame for that disposition squarely on the Primitive Methodists who were rather keen on rewards but much more on punishments. Then, like today, we occasionally go for a gentle stroll with no particular quarry in mind, and we return almost breathless with joy.
Cornish lanes are never lovelier than they are in Spring and the footpath down to Percuil from Gerrans was as lovely as any lane ever has been.
We walked this way six weeks ago and the change has been astonishing. One of the most intriguing features of our walks is to see the successional drifts of flowers following one after another. You can no more hold back the emergence of the next wave of plants than you can hold an eel in your bare hands. I took this photograph because the combination of colours: the pink of the Campions, the white of the Stitchworts and the blue of the bluebells looked so beautiful in the sunshine against the green vegetation. You don’t even have to know the names of the plants to appreciate their beauty. Looking more closely you can spot Navelwort, Dock, Herb Robert and Hogweed. Further down the path we spotted a patch of Early Purple orchids – some with spotted leaves and others without; plants don’t read textbooks.
As we went down the path we could see the successions working out. Six weeks ago there was a mass of Winter Heliotrope, mostly finished flowering. with Alexanders emerging through them. Today the Alexanders were almost finished and the Cow Parsley has thrust through them, closely followed by Hogweed. Already the Cleavers (Goosegrass if you prefer) is threading up through the competition and even showing some tiny white flowers. There’s something wildly, needlessly extravagant about nature – like a Sufi dance – that can lead, (I say grudgingly), into direct awareness of the Power, the Spirit, the Tao; whatever you want to call it.
Down at the harbour we perched on the concrete wall of the chandlery come boatyard and laughed about the time we got beaten by the tide and the wind as we paddled back in our kayak and had to be towed in by the instructor. One of the boatyard workers drove past us on a tractor and as he walked back I asked if they were busy. “Yes,” he said, “The season always takes you by surprise”, and he graced us with a friendly smile. Behind the wall an invisible woman was having a loud conversation on a mobile and a hundred yards away the sound of a conversation on the verandah of a holiday let, skimmed across the hard sand towards us. We’d hoped for the sounds of Curlew or Cuckoo but today we were content to listen to a whole choir of other species. Upstream on the creek, a Heron and an Egret eyed each other cautiously over a patch of territory.
We walked back up the road with Madame’s rucksack stuffed with Corsican Pine cones for her to draw. I think she’d scaled the fence of a rather grand house to snaffle them under the gaze of a dog walker who she’d confused with me. That’s the joy of a meandering stroll with no particular purpose in mind.
On the other hand there’s serious work to be done and I’d spotted a couple of plants of what I think is Smith’s Pepperwort – Lepidium heterophyllum on a footpath. I checked on the BSBI database and although it’s been recorded all around us on the map, it’s not been seen here. Distribution maps can sometimes tell you more about the distribution of field botanists than they can about the private life of plants. Anyway, with the prospect of filling the last missing square in the jigsaw I was like a dog with a bone and sent a preliminary enquiry with a couple of poor photos to the local Vice County Recorder. That cost me £35 because in all conscience I couldn’t continue relying on the BSBI, (Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland), for help without at least joining. And so I proudly present the evidence below with very little expectation that anyone else will be interested. Little things please little minds.
This little lot cost me four visits, one of which was to sniff a crushed leaf. The fact that it didn’t smell foetid or of garlic turned out to be important. So were the hairy leaves and the tough old perennial rhizome, not forgetting the purple stamens.