Spring treasure 12: The Hobbets

Pyramidal orchid

21/6/2018 I am so late with my last two spring treasures that they have spilled over into summer. I mustn’t use this as an excuse to abandon them though; they have been flitting around in my head, even if they have not alighted until now.

I thought pyramidal orchids would be my choice of penultimate spring treasure. They grow in my wildflower meadow – though I have only found one so far this year – and there is a forest of them at the Hobbets. In the end, however, I realised it isn’t just the orchids I love, it is their context: the sheer abundance of them at the Hobbets amongst the oxeye daisies, meadow vetchling and black medick. What’s more, there isn’t just one species of orchid there, but two. At first I thought they were a variation of the pyramidal orchid – which is known to range in colour from pale pink to deep pink-purple – but now I know better. They are marsh orchids. To my shame, I haven’t yet identified which type of marsh orchid they are, but I will make the time this very week and take along my plant identification guide.

Marsh orchids
Marsh orchids

Daisy path hobbetsGeeseIf I’m lucky, I’m also treated to the sight of Canada geese relaxing amongst the daisies with their fast-growing babies. This year, sadly, they have only managed to raise one of their five chicks; I wonder what could have happened. They are generally very vigilant parents and raised a brood as large as eleven not so long ago (through egg adoption – see my longer piece on The Hobbets). Perhaps they suffered a predator attack this year, or succumbed to illness.

I’ve not thought about it so specifically before, but late spring must be my favourite time of year at The Hobbets. I have known the place all my life, but I have never walked there as frequently as I have in the past nine months. Making a resolution, back in October, to fit in a walk most days, I usually go there several times a week, sometimes on consecutive days. A brisk round trip takes exactly half an hour; an amount of time that, unless I am out for the day until after dark in winter, it is fairly effortless to accommodate in my daily routine.

hobbets path portraitI used to think that always going on the same walk would become dull. I think I might find it so if I was walking a dog. But there is an element of obligation about walking a dog which I do not experience when walking on my own. Walking is completely different when half of your attention is consumed by the whereabouts or behaviour of your four-legged companion.

My regular walks to the Hobbets have reinforced for me the truth of Roger Deakin’s observation that you could spend a whole lifetime studying a stretch of hedgerow or a pond. Nothing stays still; every day something changes. The more I walk along the same route, the greater my curiosity, the greater my interest and delight in the smallest details, and the greater my affection for it. I could never know everything about it, even if I walked there every day for the rest of my life. Nevertheless, I feel I am coming to know it almost as well as my own garden, and the changing of the seasons seems more miraculous every year.