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March winds, April showers... roadworks, nature anthology

Date posted: Thursday 4th April 2019

March winds, April showers... roadworks, nature anthology

As I type a cold rain is lashing down from dark grey skies and the temperatures have plummeted over the past few days – from a balmy 20o last to 10o in a matter of 24hrs! But through it all the blackbirds and thrushes are singing and spring is resolutely on the up! In my pond the tadpoles have dispersed from the original roiling boil of black bodies and now flick and forage around the aquatic plants and pond sides. Tulips have been in glorious flower for a week, bringing vibrant patches of colour to the plot. Honey, bumble and solitary bees are busy, along with the deceptive little bee flies, almost hovering as they dart rapidly among the early spring flowers.

Self seeded lamium is a good source for foraging and I’ve left it to flower on my plots, although it may well not be approved by the critical eye of the plot inspector doing the rounds this week, unless he/she is a wildlife enthusiast! These ‘weeds’ can also be classified as ‘native plants in the wrong place’ so I’m sticking to my guns and leaving the lamium to flower, before removing it and replacing with more edible crops.

There have been major works carried out on the site over the past fortnight, to improve the roads. As part of this project two large corner patches of brambles have been razed to the ground. I’m saddened by this, as several species of birds used these patches to perch atop the brambles for their territorial and mating singing; I’ve seen dunnocks, whitethroats, blackcaps as well as robins and other more common of our allotments inhabitants. Brambles constitute valuable foraging and habitats for a range of wildlife species: “This scrambling shrub, also known as ‘blackberry’, is a real must in a wildlife garden. Its flowers provide nectar and pollen for many insects, it bears fruit in late summer and autumn, and offers good cover all year round… They can be extremely invasive (and rock hard), so need regular pruning to keep them in check.
Animals that benefit:
• Hundreds of creatures use brambles at different times of the year.
• Insects visit the flowers for pollen and nectar, including bumblebees, honey bees, hoverflies, wasps, butterflies, moths, flies and lacewings.
• Spiders spin webs to catch the bounty of visiting insects.
• Moths such as buff arches, peach blossom and fox moths lay their eggs on bramble as it is their larval foodplant.
• Blackbirds, thrushes, chaffinches, starlings, robins, pheasants, foxes, mice and other small mammals eat the fruits.
• Robins, wrens, thrushes, blackbirds, warblers and finches will nest in bramble and small mammals use it for protection from predators” (

On a more cheerful note, I’ve been reading a collection of writings about spring: ‘Spring, an anthology for the changing seasons’ (the Wildlife Trusts, ed Melissa Harrison; 2016 Elliot and Thompson) – highly recommended as an antidote to the current political impasses and anxieties of our Brexit days! I particularly enjoyed George Orwell on the toad and spring in the city: “I mention the spawning of toads because it is one of the phenomena of spring which most deeply appeal to me, and because the toad, unlike the skylark and the primrose, has never had much of a boost from poets. But I am aware that many people do not like reptiles or amphibians, and I am not suggesting that in order to enjoy the spring you have to take an interest in toads. There are also the crocus, the missel-thrush, the cuckoo, the blackthorn etc. The point is that the pleasures of spring are available to everybody, and cost nothing. Even in the most sordid street the coming of spring will register itself by some sign or other, if only a brighter blue between the chimney pots or the vivid green of an elder sprouting on a blitzed site. Indeed it is remarkable how Nature goes on existing unofficially, as it were, in the very heart of London. I have seen a kestrel flying over the Deptford gasworks, and I have heard a first-rate performance by a blackbird in the Euston Road.” (George Orwell, ‘Some Thoughts on the Common Toad’, 1946).

Nature, more than ever is in need of every help it can get these days, in city, suburb or countryside!