Nature knows when it is Summer

IMGP3459We have folklore, meteorological calendars and goodness knows what else to tell when the official start of Summer is. Fortunately Mother Nature does not read these things and tells us in her own way when Summer has arrived.

Last week was one such time. Hedgerows already green with growing grass suddenly showed signs of seasonal activity when the tiny white buds of the Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) started to appear. Within days this plant unfolds a myriad of tiny and delicate, but perfectly formed petals. It also puts on a spurt of accelerated growth as stems suddenly grow inches thrusting its blossom skywards to attract pollenating bees. Cow Parsley suddenly appears in such profusion it looks like the hedgerows have been given a dusting of snow.

IMGP3461Leaves on trees that up until now have been gently swelling green buds all seem to burst open on the same day covering the countryside in a swathe of blinding green brilliance that radiates its colour. The lofty boughs of the trees so prominent in winter, are suddenly shrouded from view once more until the autumn.

Grass lawns put on a additional spurt of growth too as ants attempt to build their secretive nests hidden by the lofty green blades.

The whole feel of the arrival of Summer is to create an urge to get out and about even more, particularly into the countryside. Already we are planning simple outdoor trips like picnics in remote grassy fields where one can while away the time not doing nothing, but feeling one with nature.

Yes let’s all give out a almighty cheer for Yes Summer at long last is finally here.


May, May, May

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA  Today bore witness to Mother Natures remarkable annual transformation from Spring into Summer. Today my wife and I travelled to the City of Southampton for no other reason than we did not know the place very well and simply wanted to see it.

We left in the morning with a thick heavy clinging mist carpeting the landscape and on our return journey everything had turned a vivid lush green as leaves on just about every variety of tree burst out into the world in proclamation that Summer has arrived.

Signs that Summer was fast approaching have been apparent all week. Swallows have already arrived following their long migratory flight from South Africa, Cowslip in hedgerows and verges have grown from nothing into a tall forest of delicate white flower in less than a week. Gardeners will have not failed to notice that additional spurt in the growth of grass of the last few days. All in all  it is as if Mother Nature has been lining her troops up for a grand parade to announce the last chilly tendrils of Winter have finally lost their grip.

Although officially Summer does not start until June, nature has a way of disregarding artificial dates, nature has its own timetable irrespective of political diktat.

In modern society  as we busily scurry to and fro, we may not take too much notice on the passing of another day but certainly to our ancestors it was a day for fun, frolics and festivities. Many traditional May Day activities have however withstood the ravages of time and are still celebrated today in the UK even though they may be viewed as rather quaint by foreign visitors.

Morris DancersDancing around the May Pole the origins of which are buried in symbolic fertility at a time of year romance between young people figured highly. A young girl is usually crowned the May Queen at such events with a floral headdress.

English folk dancing performed by Morris dancers or Morris Men splendidly bedecked in floral hats and jangling bells.

Padstow in Cornwall has its own unique day long festival featuring the Obby Horse pronounced locally as the “Obby Oss” draped like a skirt from the shoulders of a local resident.. The town is ablaze with colour from early Spring plants and flowers as celebrations carry-on throughout the day. The origins of these activities have long been lost in antiquity but it is speculated that they may be pre-Christian.

Internationally the 1st May is considered “The Workers Day” frequently accompanied by parades, gatherings and speeches. The day was also used by some governments to profess their military prowess. Each year during the period term the Cold War the former USSR preceded the workers celebrations with militaristic parades of troops and weapons of mass destruction. Such parades used to be used as something of a political thermometer to gauge the current state of tension between the worlds super-powers.

As for myself, I view May Day as something of a precursor hopefully pointing the way to long pleasant days of summer warmth and outdoor activities.


May 2013

Spring has Sprung and the grass has riz.

What a difference a few days of gentle warmth makes to the English countryside. In the past 24 hours, leaves on a multitude of trees, particularly Horse Chestnuts have burst into life laying a bright green mantle of freshness across the skyline, with other varieties of tree looking as if they will follow suit during the next week. Soon the Somerset countryside will have returned to the full lush green canopy of trees and fields so loved by visitors and holiday makers to this part of the world.

The winter hopefully now past, rates amongst the more bitterest and prolonged winters I can recall. Constant icy eastern winds cutting both man and beast to the quick as the insidious tendrils of cold crept into every outdoor nook and cranny.

I for one have never been a winter lover although it does have its moments.Seasonal springtime flowers like daffodils and tulips and even the grass lay dormant for weeks on end. Mother Nature does however have ways of catching up on lost time often at the cost of brow ridden sweat to gardeners trying to keep up with natures sudden spurt of growth. I still think the extra effort is rewarded by an enhanced feeling of well being which we all find so satisfying.

So far this year I have not had the opportunity to go mackerel fishing off Chesil Beach on the Dorset coast. Mackerel normally start to run along this part of the coast about Easter and no live bait is required, just imitation feathers on the end of the line. On a good day it can be difficult to carry the weight of mackerel that are caught and when this happens, we normally distribute our catch amongst friends in our village.

The cliffs of the entire stretch of Dorset’s Jurassic  coast have been subject to sudden collapse in recent weeks due to abnormally high rainfall last year allowing vast amounts of water to penetrate the rocks. Constant warnings by the Coastguard are in place and believe me, if the Coastguard issue a warning, they mean it. Nature asks no questions of right or wrong when sections of a cliff face collapse, it just happens carrying and burying all or anyone before it.

Recently my wife and I with a group of friends went for a pub lunch at the Lime Kiln Inn which is located on A372 about halfway between the A303 junction and the small town of Langport. This popular inn enjoys a high vantage point with an extensive vista across the beautiful Somerset countryside. Although it is not possible to book tables in advance except for parties of about 10 or more, we have never been disappointed at finding a table even on busy days. The Lime Kiln is only about 10 minutes drive from my home and enjoys a well deserved local reputation for good reasonably priced food. The Lime Kiln has always managed to produce quite a large and varied menu catering for all tastes and over the years I have never come away with my appetite unsatisfied. Like most patrons I have always left with a feeling of “That was a damn good meal”. If anyone is in the area, I can certainly recommend a visit.

May 2011

Although the date of the first day of Summer varies depending whether you are a meteorologist or not, for many people including myself, the 1st May is traditionally the welcome beginning of the long summer months. In not so olden times the arrival of the Summer was celebrated throughout the country with dancing around the maypole, which is considered to be something of a fertility symbol, as well as other outdoor fetes and galas. Not many locations retain the traditional maypole but a scattering of them still exist.

May normally signals the end of the football season to be replaced with the sound of leather on willow otherwise known as the cricket season. I am not a football fan myself but cricket is something I really enjoy. To non-cricket playing countries it must seem a strange sport with seemingly difficult rules to understand. Those that are more accustomed to games packed with 90 minutes of fast and furious action, a much longer game lasting three, or even five days if it is a test match, must seem very slow indeed. It is however a game of both skill and tactics where enjoyment lasts much, much longer.

So far since the arrival of a summer like spring, the weather has held good. It does seem however that whatever the British weather there is always one group or another that will complain. It’s either too hot or cold, too dry or wet and so on. At the moment it is those worried about possible drought caused by the lack or rain but I find that Mother Nature always seems to find ways of balancing things out.

The past few days in Britain has seen a round of street parties, barbecues and other celebrations due the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, now entitled the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Such events are not everyday happenings and the ceremonials were stunning to watch. I for one wish them a long and happy marriage. My guess is that Kate will now be popularly known to most people as Princess Kate whether protocol allows for it or not. I do find it sad that the rat pack which collectively go under the name of paparazzi seem determined to track them down on their honeymoon wherever and whenever that may be. I cannot help but feel how most of us would deeply resent hundreds of baying photographers camped on our doorstep during our honeymoon. I wonder how those photographers would also feel if the same happened to them?

It’s a pity there seems to no longer be any common boundary of decency between natural public interest and the invasion of privacy by the paparazzi in what can only be seen as their prey or victims. One has only to witness recent scenes of this faceless baying mob constantly hounding people like Lindsay Lohan, just waiting for her to pass wind in public before screaming probation violation that fills one with disgust. It was the same faceless rat pack that Princess Diana was trying to escape when her car crashed. It may be difficult but perhaps there should be laws to restore a balance of decency.

My property overlooks fields currently full of sheep. I find it quite amusing to see the antics of the new-born lambs. For about their first ten days of life they tend to cling close to their mothers. As they gain more confidence in their surroundings, the lambs tend to form gangs which then go racing around the fields. Although the lambs tend to all look the same, it is a common sight to see sheep nudge away a lamb which is not their own as they mistakenly try to suckle from her. The large flock of sheep are also constantly on the move with each sheep following the one in front. It is not that the flock are going anywhere in particular, it just seems that one follows the other so they are not left out. Perhaps they have copied the habit from watching mankind.

Does Nuclear Power have a future?

It might be reasonable to assume that a big question mark hangs over the future of nuclear power following the damage to four separate reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. This complex has a total of six reactors all fitted with failsafe safety devices and controls. Unfortunately words like failsafe and foolproof are not part of Mother Nature’s vocabulary. Mother Nature is also well-known for throwing unexpected and unpredictable thunderbolts out of a clear blue sky. In north-east Japan this came in the form of a magnitude 9-0 earthquake and the consequent reactor damaging tsunami which destroyed the electrical power supply that many of the safety features relied on.

Clearly this incident has demonstrated that no matter how much safety planning and features are built into the design of a nuclear reactor, there can no longer be a guarantee of 100% safety. Although Fukushima  will now join the well-known names of nuclear accidents like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl the list of incidents is much larger. Others include the Mayak or Kyshtym nuclear complex in 1957, Windscale also in 1957, Idaho National Engineering Laboratory in 1961, Severesk, formerly Tomsk-7 in 1967, Tokaimura nuclear fuel processing facility in 1999 and Mihama power plant in 2004 although apparently no radiation leak occurred at this incident.

It is the insidious fear of the potential lethal or genetic mutational effects on the unborn, of radiation that causes such alarm in the world populace. Radiation can be like an invisible and unheard wraith casting its deadly cloak like an unseen shadow over land, people, animals and vegetation with effects of contamination that can last for years.

The only realistic solution to avoiding future nuclear incidents is not to have nuclear power stations at all. However a no nuclear option also requires realistic alternatives. It would be possible to return to fossil fuel based power stations like coal or oil but these raise environmental and cost issues and well as objections on global warming issues. It would also only be a matter of time before fossil fuels become exhausted.  Wind, solar and tidal power are possible alternatives but wind turbines are unsightly and blot landscapes. Although wind and tide have a contributory input to national power requirements, at the moment they only provide a fraction of the ever-growing demand for more and more power. It is questionable if alternative sources will ever fulfil the power need currently supplied by nuclear power.

I expect once the dust, (hopefully not radioactive), has settled over Fukushima, politicians will come to the only foreseeable conclusion that if the world wants power then it will have to accept nuclear power despite its inherent dangers.

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