Summer… but with clouds on the horizon

by Wendy Levoi

Hairy Willow Herb

Hairy Willow Herb

It is the summer solstice, the longest day, the time of year when the sun has moved closest to us and furthest from the equator, and seems to pause in the sky before starting its return journey to the other side of the equator.

Today it is shining white light through virgin cloud cover, and as we pass under the railway arch towards St Bridget’s Low Church I am assailed by the intoxicating scent of honey. It is ‘Ladies Bedstraw’ (Galium Verum), an old medicinal plant often used in cheese making, a tight mass of lemon yellow flowers waving at us over the churchyard wall. It seems odd to see so many shop bought blooms adorning the grave sides, when the hedges, fields and embankments are brimming with so many beautiful wild varieties.

Herb Robert

Herb Robert

There is a profusion of Red Campion, with pink, star-like flowers that are pollinated by both bees and butterflies; not to be confused with Carthusian Pinks, named after an order of monks founded by St Bruno in 1086, which contain saponin, a soap like agent.

Then there is Herb Robert (Geranium Robertianum) named in honour of Pope Robert, containing ethereal oil, tannins, and an unknown alkaloid that releases an unpleasant smell when rubbed onto the skin, (a natural insect repellent); not to mention the Hairy Willow Herb, better known as Codlins and cream, with its delicate, fuchsia coloured petals, whose seeds were once used to make wicks. It is amazing how our unique heritage comes to life in our wild flowers.

ladiesbedstraw

Ladies Bedstraw

A small flock of starlings gathers in the hawthorn bushes before dispersing to feed over the neighbouring fields, whilst swallows and house martins twitter and swoop bat-like across the track, catching insects on the wing. We swing a right up the lane towards ‘Warborough Nook’ and are soon overlooking the Ehen flood plain, with The Isle of Man glimmering mysteriously in the distance on a silver strip of Irish Sea. I am struck by the whiteness of huge cotton wool clouds on the southern horizon, billowing back across the Black Combe steam train and all along the ridges to the Wasdale fells, but I am not impressed by the man made activity taking over the ‘boggles’ since The Moorside Project has got underway. Roads, machines, drilling structures, lorries, men in yellow coats, and it seems that the days of the cycle way are numbered as the proposed trio of nuclear reactors has moved its boundary fence ever closer, now to within 300 metres of the beautiful historic village of Beckermet, taking over a vast swathe of farm and coastal land that was promised to Sellafield as a very necessary buffer zone, causing great consternation to local, and not so local residents. Can this really be allowed to happen?

Sadly our long standing resident barn owls seem to have voted with their feet!