‘Are you looking for treasure?’ I asked a man who had been standing on a wooden footbridge over the River Cherwell for some time. He held a walking map in plain view.
‘No,’ he said – soft Kiwi accent, grey beard, the same discreet hearing aid as my father. ‘But I’ll show you treasure. Look at that.’ He pointed to a wide, shallow stump that must once have been a magnificent chestnut – others shaded the river bank. Only that resilient old stump wasn’t just a stump at all: it was covered in dozens of leafy new shoots.
‘That’s treasure,’ he said.
The Cherwell Boathouse is a very nice place to eat.
So is The Old Parsonage, where you might, just might, one day spot John Simpson enjoying a drink at the end of the day.
If you wander along the meadows and river banks here, now, you’ll see snakeshead fritillaries in their prime, narcissus just over, dead nettle beginning, willow catkins, perhaps a heron gulping down a fish, punts inexpertly punted.
And, thinking of Xs, it is Freedom Day in South Africa today.
Suddenly there are not enough empty glass jars in the house, nor lids. Those which are pairs rattle around in the dishwasher while that familiar, comforting scent of bubbling strawberries and sugar (so much! one’s teeth!) rolls out the back door and into the garden in great, billowing clouds.
The strawberry is fine. The gooseberry and elderflower, hmmmm, not so much. (Must not make jam while on the phone must not make jam while on the phone must not make jam while on the phone must not make jam while on the phone…)
I am certain this jam is delicious, however. And the tumblr page is nice: London Borough of Jam.
This looks pretty good, too.
Roger Deakin swam here.
I would, too.
Cattle on the banks.
Beds of damp clover.
Swallows, now specks, against blue sky.
There is a very large and glamorous flower show in full swing at the moment…
but this year I think I prefer the one happening in the garden and on the streets.
On to flower shows of a different but not unrelated kind. Do listen to Sir David Attenborough talking to James Naughtie on BBC Radio 4 this morning about the high number of declining plant and animal species in England outlined in the recently published State of Nature report.
‘It confirms your worst thoughts, really,’ Attenborough says. ‘We’ve got this extraordinary expertise in destroying, poisoning and knocking down things.’
You’ll find the clip here.
Before that leaves you too depressed, have a look at the website of Plantlife, a charity dedicated to saving wild plants and their habitats, which I find consistently inspiring and motivating – two very good things. Plantlife, along with the RSPB and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, is one of the 25 wildlife charities that contributed to the report.