As I wrote on Tuesday, we’re here to see some old friends and these are two of them. Field botany is an odd pursuit because you never forget where you first properly identified something. In my case it’s a bit sadder because I can’t resist the temptation to see if they’re still there.
There is actually a non botanical link between the two plants because I found the second – Pilosella aurantiaca – Fox and Cubs, in search of the first, Stachys sylvatica – Hedge Woundwort about three years ago, when I identified the Woundwort and went back to double check. Naturally I couldn’t find it again but stumbled on Fox and Cubs on the village green in Portscatho as I wandered disconsolately back to the van. Like most of my favourite plants it’s not remotely rare but I’d never seen it before. It’s a lovely flower except when, like today, it’s been mown off by an overzealous person who thinks anything except grass is untidy.
The Hedge Woundwort was my actual quarry today because I was looking specifically for plants used for healing.
Hedge Woundwort – Stachys silvatica
So today, without really trying we passed Selfheal, Cleavers, Ribwort Plantain, Dandelion, Blackberry and Foxglove. There were probably many more lurking in the background, but Madame was fixed upon hearing a Curlew again – one of the most lovely sounds on the Percuil River. Sadly none were to be heard but when we got back to the campervan we could hear one calling in the distance. Honour was therefore satisfied.
Cornwall’s easy to love and easy to hate as well – overcrowded and over exploited in summer and yet in spring and early summer and again in the autumn it offers more moments of pure joy than any other place I know.
There was a fierce east wind gusting at nearly 60mph overnight, and although it moderated through the day it was one to tie the hat on tight. Curiously the wind was not at all cold, having come up from Southern Europe and taken a turn westwards.
We walked east towards Dodman Point and as ever I was looking out for plants. Is it weird to experience such a leap of the heart when you see something you recognise and can name? So wiping a tear from my eye (I’m exaggerating just a bit) my two plants of the day were wild carrot, looking stunning in pink and white. This plant looks lovely even in death, when the umbels form little dry cages like lobster creels. But the star of the show was undoubtedly the clump of agrimony in full flower on the cliff top. A herb with a history of use in healing, but not something I’ve seen very often. There’s a dilemma in gathering herbs for medicine and that’s the fact that so many of them are disappearing from the landscape. I don’t think I could ever think of gathering agrimony, for instance. But we’re growing some useful herbs in the allotment and I’m quite exited at the prospect of making use of them. It all points to increasing diversity at home in order to build up rather than deplete the wild population.
We felt uniquely privileged to be able to walk along the cliff top today. It’s fifty years since we lived here for a year and fell in love with the place, and I think we both experienced a rather strange sense that the long gap in time had been bridged and in spite of our knackered knees we were in our twenties again.
[and in a late addendum I remembered that we saw two hummingbird hawkmoths working some valerian in Portscatho – never seen one before, but they were unmistakable – we’ll go back tomorrow and try to take a photo.]