Wild or cultivated?


Do you plant annuals, or do you favour perennials? Some councils plant bright annuals in a straight geometric pattern for their parks. People seem to like this. But what about the wildlife?

I have just been to a little coastal town which has bravely, I think, opted for grasses and wildflowers, in their newly developed walkways and park areas. It is not much of a show. There is not a dahlia or lobelia in sight. In fact, there are not too many flowers at all. Neither was this developed from a wildflower mix with poppies and cornflowers which do not grow in our real meadow, year after year. Instead, there are grass mixtures, wild shrubs and some perennial wildflowers like ox-eye daisies and campions. Their little stream has been bordered by reeds and wild yellow flag irises.

The result is surprisingly calming and a very different experience. Amid the roar of the traffic and the building of a huge supermarket there was the bubbling of water, the wind in the grass and, of course, the buzzing of insects.

The sands on the coast were different too. The beaches down south seem crowded with people. But there in the north the sands were delightfully deserted it was so easy to social distance. But commercially it is not perhaps such a success as our more popular sea-side towns. Which one provides us with most wealth I wonder?

When we arrived home, the thrush astonished me by singing so loudly from a tree that it interrupted our conversation. Then, I found a poor sparrow trapped in our kitchen. He must have been there for all our long weekend when we were away. For four days he must have drunk from our dripping tap (I have been meaning to get that repaired) and lived off crumbs on the floor (surely not?).

We are used to birds coming into the house. The robin regularly pops into the sunroom through the open doors and the wren is often to be found searching the beams. Once a swallow came in with some mud in its mouth and began to build a nest with its sticky mixture. But I do not like to think of the sparrow clinging onto the sink and staring out of the window until we came back and let it out.

The spotted flycatchers are still here and now the young are so big that I can see three little heads peering over the parapet of their nest wall. Their yellow gape is permanently open, and the parents are visiting every minute with bigger and bigger insects from Oak Meadow, which has never been cultivated as far as anyone can remember.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)

The spotted flycatchers have nested here in my roses


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