I was standing where Glapthorn brook meets the river this morning, waiting for a very noisy kingfisher to fly out of the trees. It never did, or at least not in front of me, but I’ve got in the habit of keeping my ears open for more calls while looking around at the undergrowth nearby, so that’s what I did.
At the weekend there were lots of blue butterflies, but this was a cool wet morning and there were none to be seen. So I looked at plants instead. There were some of those curious flowers on the reeds which I’d never noticed until using the canoe last week. As there was a fine fresh tang to the morning air I wondered whether they had a scent. I didn’t want to risk sliding into the water just for that though, so I sampled some other plants and flowers instead.
First was some late flowering Cow Parsley. It smelled of pee. Bindweed had no smell at all, as did Purple Loosestrife, which was disappointing given how beautiful it looks. There was plenty of Himalayan Balsam – it seems to double very year and some of it is approaching 8 feet tall. Pretty, popular with bees but as an alien species apparently not popular with naturalists.
I couldn’t smell anything from the flower, but if I crushed the petals between finger and thumb there was a hint of peach. Nettles smelled dark green and bitter. A bluish Thistle head came the closest so far to having a scent like a garden flower. Most aromatic of all though, was Ragwort. There were several subtle notes to its bouquet – it’s a pity it’s so reviled or I’m sure it would make a good perfume!
As I walked on through Cotterstock I was picking up scents of Camomile and Lavender, probably from the well kept gardens. Nothing from from a roadside Sunflower though. A Buddleia showed some promise. I’m not sure a cool morning in late summer was the best and most scientific time to sniff around, but kept me interested and amused for quite a while.
When I got to Assiter’s Spinney I dipped into the woods and headed for a gap in the trees by the river bank. I always do that, and assumed it was to look up and down the river. But today I realised that I’m attracted by the light of the sky and its reflection in the water. Summer woods with a full canopy of leaves can be dark and gloomy places.
Further along the path red orange Cuckoo Pint popped up here and there like little hobbity wayposts. Out of the trees again, and a brief sniff at Brambles and Elderflower in a hedgerow. Then through the last footpath gate with its clunky catch as it slams behind you. Next to it fluttered the single butterfly I spot – appropriately, it’s a Gatekeeper.