Not quite the freedom we thought


Freedom at last! We can go out and enjoy ourselves. But I am concerned about COVID like most of us. I am not sure that I will be doing anything very different except, as a sign of our (tenuous) newly found freedom, our gate on the drive will be open during the day. For 18 months people have read the notices not to pass that line and to leave parcels on the drive.

Mind you, the gate being open is only symbolic. Not many will be in the garden and no one in the house, except us. But we are going out to interesting places in Shropshire. Our last adventure was to Prees Heath nature reserve in north Shropshire. Prees Heath means ‘brushwood’ and that is a good description for this disused WW11 airport and common.

The land is shallow, untouched and covered in wildflowers like St John’s wort, bird’s foot trefoil, fireweed, and heather. A purple and yellow mass which provides the ideal haunt for the silver studied blue butterfly. It is rare. In fact, it is so rare that Prees Heath is the only remaining sanctuary in the Midlands. I had never seen this butterfly and could not imagine that I would ever set eyes on such a hidden secret.

Well, I did see it. As soon as I got onto the site, there it was on yellow trefoil. Like a summer blue flash, fluttering so fast it could have been a dream. Then there were more, blue males and the brown females, once you knew where to look there were lots of them.

The short-lived females lay their eggs in a very strange place. They leave them near ants’ nests at the base of suitable plants. The larvae hatch in March and they go into the ants’ nests below ground.

Then another strange thing happens, the ants take care of the caterpillars and keep them from harm. As a reward they get a sweet sugar liquid from the caterpillar. When the chrysalis develops the ants still care for it until the adult flies away as a butterfly.

We had another sort of freedom here when the spotted flycatchers fledged. We could, at last, open the patio door without worrying about disturbing this rare bird nesting in my climbing rose. We were thinking of pruning, as we wanted to eat and drink there on our patio. We dragged the table and chairs back. But yesterday I could not believe it. The flycatchers were here again. They are going for a second brood! Lock the patio doors, leave the rose to droop, take away the table and chairs, our freedom is curtailed again.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)


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