Then along came the Last Days if May...... and it was still cold. The quick blast of warmth on the weekend has been forgotten, but the Highland Cattle managing the grasslands around Park Gate Down are dressed appropriately.
Monkey orchids have started timidly to flower on stunted stalks.
I was surprised that news of Lady's Slipper orchids flowering in Lancashire have been given national publicity, and recalled a nicely-turned passage in Peter Marren's book Britain's Rare Flowers:
The Lady's Slipper orchid is the prodigy, if not the monstrosity, of our wild flora. Its huge exotic bloom - those clashing colour, a golden clog or slipper held in the clasp of four purple banners - is a triumph of natural bad taste. It looks like some archetypal jungle plant, or the sot of thing a romantic poet might invent after a session on the opium.
The Lady's Slipper orchid has something in common with King Henry V: it became 'too famous to live long'. Our Lady's Slipper was dug up and dug up again, until none but a single plant was left.
So now that single plant is guarded by police on a golf course.
I was pleased to talk with David Arnold, descendant of Jarvist, from Vancouver, who has had a good holiday birding in England. He hadn't yet seen a yellowhammer, so here's a picture of one of the many on the face of the North Downs.
I was idly leaning on the parapet of a bridge over the disused Ealham Valley railway, a few yards from my office, when I saw a dull brown bird fluttering its wings and almost falling off its perch. A youngster I thought at first, then it flew to another and mated with it, then they flew into the undergrowth, flashing reddish tails. Nightingales - cool.