For the last few years, every so often, I've planted my foot somewhere, refused to move it, and looked about me to see what I could see. A 'Stuck Foot Post'. And I've encouraged you to do the same. You might begin by thinking 'bother, there's nothing here'. Then bits and bobs emerge from the general blur. A blade of grass. A fallen feather. A stranded worm. A bottle top. A daisy. The original Loose and Leafy practice - which seems very long ago now - was to alternate between Stuck Foot Posts and Street Plant ones; and April should have been for Street Plants. But I'll do a Stuck Foot post today as a way of inviting you to join in next month and stick your foot somewhere - sometime between the 21st and 25th - and tell us about it. What do you think? You can choose your foot-hold randomly (often the best because it's a challenge) or somewhere familiar (and see it through new eyes) and, mostly you will do it according to the rules (not moving that foot) or you might find yourself chasing butterflies. (Which is what happened to me this time.)
Spring seems late this year. And erratic. I was hoping to show you Blackthorn (which produces sloes). The blossom is fantastic. It's light and airy and early. But for all that it's currently frothing up many Dorset hedgerows it's almost over round where I live. And once it's gone, and it's replaced its flowers with leaves, it's hardly visible again till autumn - when it suddenly shows up with sloes.
Time for confession. I only thought of reviving the 'Stuck Foot' idea because I was left on a limb. There I was, vaguely in the presence of Blackthorn but too late for its flowers. So I asked myself 'right, now I'm here, what shall I do? I know! Move along a little (away from disappointment) and stick my foot somewhere.
|This bramble can have a spotlight of its own.|
I decided I should probably show hawthorn instead so I plonked myself in front of a hawthorn tree and settle in to see what I could see. Hawthorn flowers are very different from blackthorn. Readers from previous years will know I don't like it much. It's too dense. But hawthorn has stolen blackthorn's place. Prominent. (Along with suddenly enthusiastic brambles.)
The Woodland Trust is having a campaign this year to record the places where native bluebells grow and where there are Spanish ones. By my hawthorn - I take these to be Spanish bluebells. (Their heads don't hang down as meekly as the native kind, and their petals don't have such turny-uppy frills.) Bluebells are not among my favourite flowers either. They look brilliant en-masse - famous as woodland carpets - but up close they aren't that inspiring. Native bluebells are a bit limp and thin, with flowers on only down one side. Spanish ones are bulkier and have flowers all the way round. A few too many. A bit of a jam. I don't like grape hyacinths for the same reason. As long term readers may now be remembering, Spring brings out the worst in me - I'm a total grump until the early flowers are gone. In my calendar, Blackthorn belongs to late winter.
(Do you have personal categories where you knowingly put plants or birds or insects between the wrong brackets?)
Dandelions are one of my big-deal favourites. In some areas they are almost as plentiful as the grass they grow in. Here, though, the first burst is over and there are more clocks than pennies . . .
. . . And Goose Grass (Cleavers) is still young enough to be upright and pretty. Before long it will topple over and stretch along the ground and its leaves will catch hold of you in a slightly sticky way . . . and it will grow little white flowers, then little velcro balls which you'll have to pick off your socks when you get home.
And the butterfly . . . Right. Along comes a Speckled Wood.
Away flies the Speckled Wood.
For a while I stayed steadfast to my intent; stood resolutely facing into the hedge and waited for it to come back again. If it didn't return a bee might arrive and pose for a portrait instead. Nothing.
(I think there are fewer insects this year. Do you?)
There's a limit to the time one can remain staring into a hedgerow on a path that's busy with families out walking on a sunny Sunday afternoon. One can end up feeling a little . . er . . . self-conscious. Could people think I'm dangerous? What if someone stops and asks what I'm doing?
I will say 'I'm waiting for that butterfly (I point) to come back here so I can takes it's picture on that leaf. (I point to the leaf.) Or perhaps another leaf. I wave my hand vaguely. There are many leaves but not all of them in easy reach when you have to keep that foot stuck.
I brazened it out till I had no braze left and set off to run after the butterfly. (Uncomfortably aware that the touch-screen controls on my new camera were bleeping happily and randomly re-setting themselves.)
If I can still work out how to do it after all this time, I'll put a link box here on 21st of May and close it late on the 25th. Then you can stick your foot somewhere if you like - and tell us all about it. You might manage not to cheat . . or you too may find yourselves chasing butterflies!
Another view of the Speckled Wood on Loose and Leafy - 'The Speckled Wood's Bottom'.
P.S. The Speckled Wood on the right is the same individual only with its wings open. This Alexanders flower next to it very small - this isn't a giant butterfly! See the Bindweed?