Country Diary: Rapid change in the countryside

Elder is now in full bloom.Elder is now in full bloom.
Elder is now in full bloom.
With advancing days in June, the countryside responds to rapid climate changes. Gone are those '˜candles' of blossom on the horsechestnut trees, now replaced by miniature conkers '“ many whipped from their anchorage during strong winds. Thousands of minute, spiny seed cases strewn the ground.

Gone are the carpets of snowy-white ramsons, leaving only the aroma of garlic to remind us of their passing.

Gone are the woodland flowers of springtime, leaving seed cases to propagate their kind next year.

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Thick crowns of trees obliterate the sun, their dense foliage creating gloom, rather than dappled patches of daylight.

However, despite some disappointments – including the failure of baneberry to flower this year – all is not lost.

Those decaying skeletons of elder bushes seen in winter, along with the acrid stench of young leaves in spring, have been covered with sprays of sweet-smelling, creamy-white flowers in June. You can often be aware of their fragrance before observing their blossom along hedgerows.

Elder flowers have many uses, and have an acknowledged role as an ingredient in skin ointments and eye-lotions. You can even munch them straight off the bush. Young buds can be added to salads, or pickled.

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Make a simple summer drink by putting a bunch of elder flowers in a jug, adding boiling water, and then straining the liquid off when cool. Just sweeten to taste, and enjoy!

Wild dog roses now adorn hedgerows with their large white to pink, five-petalled flowers. It’s England’s national flower, and keeps its dignity even as it dies. They never wilt or wrinkle for days, and scarcely even drop before shedding their petals. Wild roses even have a more delicate scent than garden varieties. I love them.

Ox-eye daisies now adorn roadside verges in profusion. From June until August we welcome their carpets of white and gold. It is often referred to as a dog daisy, moon daisy or marguerite. The word ‘daisy’ means day’s eye. The solitary flowers, carried on long stems are like dazzling eyes which bloom throughout the day.

The highlight of the week was a drive to the elevated village of Hutton Buscel. Open gardens are always a great attraction, so we arrived early and parked in a field at the west end of the village. Grey clouds gathered, and we almost feared the worst as we bought our tickets and map showing garden locations.

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Thankfully, the day remained fine but humid, as we strolled around a variety of amazingly colourful gardens with some attractive and imaginative features. At some of the gardens, books, artwork and ceramics were on sale, and plants too.

Refreshments, cakes and tombola stalls added to the happy, friendly atmosphere. Even a yellow hammer contributed his “little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese,” rhythmic ‘song’ to the occasion!

We hope sufficient funds were raised to restore the church bells to their former glory.

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