Rose Bay Willow Herb

Driving down the hill into Hurstbourne Tarrant we pass three magnificent stands of purple- maroon flowers, graceful like fox gloves, but far more wild. While fox gloves have been bred for the garden, the Bombsite weed (as Londoners called it from the 1940s to the 1980s) is has apparently resisted cultivation and is still only a denizen of uncultivated places.

These flowers were on the grass verge of a country road in Hampshire, tall and stately, looking as if they had been specifically planted there. They are accidental placings, part of the joy of untrimmed grass verges, which are often now the last refuge of the English wild flower.

Even these verges do not contain the flowers that they once did in my (not so distant) childhood. A London child, I spent summers in rural Shropshire and then Wiltshire, and grass was really not to be noticed or seen on the edges on country roads. Rather, those edges were profusions of different flowers, all jostling for position. Harebells, Chamomile, Lady’s Slipper, Herb Robert, Germander are those I can still name, but there were so many more.

In fact, the three stands of Rose Bay Willow Herb I am admiring so much are poor paltry remnants. But we need to grab beauty, especially of the accidental, happenstance, sort where we can and treasure it.

Earlier in the day, we had walked through a wood high on the chalk. The path took us down into a dry valley filled with Beechwood coppice. We sat a little up the slope from the path and watched the sun trickle through the leaves. The sun beams were sporadic as clouds crossed the sky and the light was constantly being repainted across the many thin pale trunks, lighting some leaves to a neon green. We sat for quite a while, until we remembered the Cheese delivery in the boot of the car, somewhere over the hill, parked in a narrow lane. Slowly we got up and sauntered back, retracing our route to the kissing gate we had used to enter the path across the fields to the wood.

It was good to take that time to sit and watch.

What is life, if full of care, there is no time to stand and stare?


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