A star of all seasons
PUBLISHED: 09:00 24 May 2014
Our new columnist Matt Parkins takes an inquisitive look at the wild side of Devon
Oh, the sweet scent of spring! The rich perfume of the May blossom can only mean one thing. The lengthening days encourage wildflowers to burst from their slumber.
Carpets of bluebells succeed the primrose-speckled hedge banks. A palette of colours releases us from the dull grasp of winter and I can feel the optimism seeping through – will we feel the warming glow of the sun this year?
Walking the lanes, I take a lungful of spring air. The May flowers of common Hawthorn provide a full-bodied aromatic treat and cushioned bunches of rosy white petals add charm to the view.
May is my favourite month. Activity in the meadows and hedges is growing with twittering, rustling and buzzing emanating from the hedges. May flowers are a perfect source of sugary nutrition for the bees; our most reliable of friends taking on their perpetual pollination duties.
Don’t our lives depend so much on the essential role these little workers play? As well as nourishment for the insects, the Hawthorn provides us with so many good things. Its leaves are edible, medicinal berries glow with radiance later in the year, it provides sustainable firewood, and farmers for generations have safely enclosed their livestock with those resolutely stout thorns. I think the generosity of the Hawthorn requires some recognition on our part.
May Day celebrations go some way to acknowledge our admiration but can we do more? After all, Devon’s wealth of hedges provides the wild arteries of the county; a safe haven for fauna and flora. The distinctive hawthorn is a star of all seasons; with spring blossom, lush lobed leaves in summer and autumn berries, it’s easy to distinguish in the landscape.
I thank my parents for sowing the seed of my appreciation of the indigenous treasures of Devon; my excitement at learning to identify our native trees and shrubs began with them, later developing into a lifelong fascination with woodlands and wild places that now dominates both my work and leisure ambitions.
Perhaps the best thing I can do to conserve the celebration of May is to convey this passion to the next generation. I’ve got a thing about growing trees and shrubs from Devon’s naturally sourced seed; it’s a fun way to involve children in caring for our beautiful county and it all starts with a few steps in spring.