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After the bluebells: the woods at midsummer

June 18, 2014

I’m not sure where the past month has gone. Oh dear, why does midsummer always take me by surprise? One moment I am bumbling along thinking, ‘Ooh, the year is starting to get rolling now, isn’t it, we’re into May already, I suppose that’s Spring well under way.’ The next moment, ‘Aaghh! The year is HALF WAY THROUGH!’ Anyway, here we are, only a few days from being able to observe sagely that the nights are drawing in again. I suppose it’s time I got going on my 2014 to-do list.

Out in the woods, meanwhile (the weather is far too nice this week to be wasted on ticking off to-do lists) I noticed with a start today that the season has changed while I wasn’t looking. Those heavenly bluebells have all gone now, leaving a forest of seed heads instead., 17.6.14-1

What looks like long grass under the trees is actually bluebell stems.


The edges of the woods have become a thicket of nettles and sticky goose-grass, almost smothering the many other plants growing vigourously there.


foxgloves in flower against a backdrop of brambles, dock leaves and goose grass.

foxgloves in flower against a backdrop of brambles, dock leaves and goose grass.


The meadow between the wood and the river ripples in the warm breeze, lush with long grasses.


Midsummer lushness

Midsummer green


And in the hollow horse chestnut – still the first tree in the wood to come into leaf every spring, despite its scooped out interior – a pair of crows have raised three young. I’ve often thought that this hollow would make a wonderful home for some creature or other; but I only realised it was in use at last when, as I was walking past it not so long ago, the tree croaked at me.,18.6.14-3

A very des. res., wouldn’t you agree?


Peering cautiously inside, wary of being pecked on the nose, I spied three yellow mouths wide open in the gloom, squawking for food. A week later, the young were fledged and ready to go. The last one flew the nest a couple of days ago, to join the noisy mob who hang out in the big lime tree at the edge of the cow pasture. I wonder if the same family will return to the hollow horse chestnut next year.


Three squabbling teenagers about to fly the nest

Three squabbling teenagers about to fly the nest. I expect their parents just don’t understand them.


Before I go, I should explain that I do have an excuse for having ‘lost’ a month, and for my woefully sparse blog posts this year. After a rather trying few months, I have recently been diagnosed with M.E. It seems that this can be triggered by head trauma, which my doctor is sure is the case for me. Anyway, what it means is that, for the present, my walks are rather fewer and shorter than of old, and my head is and has been rather fuzzy and lacking in inspiration and concentration for writing (or indeed for much else). However, I am in pretty good heart and am hopeful that it won’t get much worse before it gets better. Now, where’s that to-do list…


From the days when I had a pre-schooler at home, you might enjoy Midsummer’s treasures.


37 Comments leave one →
  1. maryz permalink
    June 18, 2014 5:39 pm

    I’m so sorry you’re still having sequelae from the head trauma. But for this poor colonist, please tell us what is M.E.?

    • June 18, 2014 10:57 pm

      Sorry, Mary, I meant to add a link there. M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) is described by the UK’s National Institute of Clinical Excellence as ‘a persistent neurological disorder..consistent with an abnormality of the immune system’. It is a type of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, characterised by muscle aches and weakness, weird exhaustion, ‘brain fog’ and extreme debility after mental or physical exertion. It can last anything from a few months to years; but people do recover from it, so I am counting my blessings that it’s nothing worse. Thanks for asking, and I hope that you are in good health!

      • maryz permalink
        June 18, 2014 11:00 pm

        Thanks for the info, DB. I hope your experience with this will be short-lived and completely overcome.

  2. Barbara Lavender permalink
    June 18, 2014 5:42 pm

    I was noticing today when out walking how quickly the first spring flowers have been replaced; purple vetch, meadowsweet and many others seem to have appeared in the last few days. The elderflowers are spectacular this year too.

    So sorry to hear about the ME; my daughter in law has this so I know how debilitating it can be. It does seem to be something that varies a lot in severity from person to person though, so I do hope you will not be too badly affected.

    I always love your photos – did you watch Springwatch on BBC2? Lots of nests and fledging there (and I like they way they deal with the inevitable predations). So all the posts you put out will be much appreciated, but obviously there will be many other calls on your time and energy, so I hope the blog doesn’t become a chore.

    • June 18, 2014 11:22 pm

      Thanks very much, Barbara. I didn’t see much of Springwatch this year although I have watched it occasionally. Truth be told, I am lucky enough to be able to watch spring on my doorstep! This week I drove right past a roe deer on our drive with twin spotted fauns trying to hide in the grass at the roadside. They were smaller than my spaniel – that really was an ooh moment!

      I’m sorry to hear that your daughter in law has M.E. One thing that I have learned from suffering a head injury is the importance of rest and of pacing yourself: I’m sure your daughter in law has learned that too, and I’m hoping that knowledge will help prevent my own symptoms getting worse.

  3. boyd permalink
    June 18, 2014 7:08 pm

    sorry to hear about your difficulty. i enjoy your posts whenever they come. my goodness if fuzzy thinking was a drawback there would be no prime ministers.

  4. June 18, 2014 7:35 pm

    Oddly, I really like the caw of crows, though it isn’t the prettiest of bird sounds!
    I am sorry to hear of this latest health issue. Having had concussion myself, I sympathize, but mine wasn’t nearly as traumatic as yours.

    • June 18, 2014 11:26 pm

      Hmm. I don’t much like the noise they make myself, and I don’t like what they do to baby lambs – but I can’t help rather admiring crows. They are intelligent and sociable beasts.

      Thanks for your sympathy. I remember you said you had suffered concussion: not fun whatever the circumstances. Quite a lot of us head-cases in the world! 😉

  5. June 18, 2014 8:12 pm

    So sorry to hear about the ME. Wishing you health and strength.

  6. June 18, 2014 8:50 pm

    Now is the time for being outdoors….besides who would want to miss a croaking tree? Enjoyed the walk

    • June 18, 2014 11:28 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the walk! I am rather sorry that the tree has fallen silent again…for this year, anyway. It made me jump out of my skin the first time!

  7. June 18, 2014 9:48 pm

    So sorry to hear about the M.E. My daughter-in-law’s brother suffers from this and I know it can be very variable in its effects. Lovely photos of June lushness and the croaking tree is a gem. There is something so endearing about fledglings preparing to leave the nest – even crows.

    • June 18, 2014 11:38 pm

      Thanks. Your poor relative: I sometimes wonder if it is actually harder for men who suffer a debilitating disease than for women.

      I do agree with you about fledglings. From the crows to a clutch of tiny bluetits that I discovered yesterday, nesting in a crevice in the garden wall, they are all endearing in their way.

  8. June 19, 2014 11:57 am

    The season has taken me by surprise, too… after so much anticipation! I can’t believe midsummer day is so close. But the heat is certainly picking up. Those crow chicks look quite cute (or as cute as crow chicks can probably look!) I can imagine how they took you by surprise.
    I am sorry to hear about your diagnosis but like your other readers I hope that the effects are minimal. I wonder if you might consider some form of alternative therapy such as reiki? Apart from its healing potential it can be extremely relaxing and de-stressing.

    • June 20, 2014 11:55 pm

      Thanks, Jo. I have a wonderful crania-sacral therapist and an equally wise medical herbalist looking after me. They both seem to be natural healers as well as skilled in their professions, so I am (literally) in good hands.

  9. Toffeeapple permalink
    June 19, 2014 1:18 pm

    I am sorry to hear of your M.E. and I hope that it is short lived and you are restored to full health vey soon.

    I am rather batty about birds and to have seen baby Crows in the nest is beyond fantastic, Blue Tits too, you lucky thing!

    • June 20, 2014 11:59 pm

      Thank you, Toffeeapple. I must post some more bird photos for you. Earlier this week I discovered a clutch of minute blue-tits eyeing me from a crevice in the garden wall: I really must photograph them before they fledge and disappear. It was the sweetest sight!

  10. hmunro permalink
    June 19, 2014 7:16 pm

    What a joy and a privilege it is to accompany you vicariously on your walks, DB! Thank you especially for risking your nose (!) to bring us a photo of the baby crows. What a pity that the tree has stopped squaking at you, but I hope a new brood of young corvids will appear to startle you again next year. And I also hope that by next year you’ll be feeling more like yourself again, and that the diagnosis of M.E. will seem like a distant memory. In the meantime, I’m rooting for you, and wishing you well. xx

    • June 21, 2014 12:01 am

      Oh, yes, here’s hoping. Thanks so much for all your good wishes. As long as I can keep walking, photographing and writing – even if it’s a bit less than before – I’ll be all right. And luckily I am well endowed in the nasal department, so the odd bit off here and there wouldn’t make much difference. 😉

  11. June 19, 2014 10:17 pm

    good heart and getting better? Oh yes I hope so. I remember how your son enjoyed the bluebells with you. That joy lingers across quieter weeks.

    • June 21, 2014 12:02 am

      Oh, thank you, Diana. Yes, those bluebells and my son’s pleasure in them are a blessed memory.

  12. June 20, 2014 9:51 am

    Beautiful photographs. You always take us along with you on your adverntures. I love the fact that the tree “croaked” at you and the fluffy baby crows. Do the most with what you can and appreciate life .

    • June 21, 2014 12:03 am

      Thank you very much. It’s fun leading adventures through the woods, like an online pied piper!

  13. Julia Miller permalink
    June 20, 2014 10:09 am

    I’ve been so busy the past 6 months. Just now catching up on your blogs. It’s like visiting with a friend your haven’t seen in a while. Just need a cup of tea.

    I am so sorry you continue to have difficulties with your post concussion. I’m just so thankful your are still with us. Love to you and and your family.

    ps dealing with my own teenager who enjoys crowing loudly. His voice deepened overnight, shot up in height and hormones are racing.

    • June 21, 2014 12:07 am

      How lovely that you think of this blog as an old friend to visit over a cuppa! I feel most honoured. Your good wishes mean a lot.

      Love the thought of your own big fledgling. We have the teenage years still to look forward to – not that far away all of a sudden! Although actually it is my younger son, aged 8, who shows occasional previews of adolescent hormonal behaviour. Gulp.

  14. June 20, 2014 8:35 pm

    It still feels almost like an extended spring, but, like you, I can see the changes around me, one set of flowers replaced with another and more yet to bloom. Love the croaking tree. Despite their predatory habits I do have a big soft spot for crows. Sorry to hear about your diagnosis, sending best wishes your way.

    • June 21, 2014 12:11 am

      Well, I’m glad it’s not just me who has felt that spring has only just emerged into summer. Though, walking in the woods today, I was entranced at the burgeoning greenery underfoot: all the different shapes of tiny leaves growing at ground level: wood sorrel and pimpernel and speedwell and violet leaves and a hundred others, and all so green! It is the best kind of therapy.

  15. June 26, 2014 11:18 pm

    I’ve had exactly the same experience of feeling that suddenly, bam, summer is half over, when it was just beginning a few weeks ago. Your photographs are so beautiful. As you know, my 16-year-old daughter is just now emerging from nearly three years of severe ME, and her improvement is thanks to Mickel Therapy. Something to keep in mind – though it seems as if there are so many variations to this mysterious illness, and similarly various things that help some people and not others. I really believe that Reiki and other complementary therapies can be extremely beneficial. Massage was very helpful to her when she was mostly bedbound. And of course, having a laugh and keeping in good heart is so very healing! All the best, Christine

    • July 16, 2014 8:39 pm

      Belated thanks, Christine. I am making good use of some complementary therapies – and indeed laughter is the best medicine! Such good news about your daughter.

  16. June 27, 2014 10:56 pm

    It’s entirely probable that you have already been awarded the Versatile Blogger Award but, in case you have not and would like to accept it, I am nominating you for the award as one of the blogs I most enjoy. Details can be found on my blog at

    • July 16, 2014 8:41 pm

      Thank you so much, and I apologise for having done nothing about it yet! An award from a sister-blogger is the best kind of all – I am very touched.

      • July 16, 2014 8:43 pm

        You are very welcome. And do take your time and slot it in when time suits. That’s what I did. 🙂

  17. July 16, 2014 8:33 pm

    Hope your absence is not health related but if it is sending good wishes to you !


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