Often overlooked, or even “weeded out”, I think the humble knapweed is one of our most exquisite flowers, with her combination of sky-blue and rich amethyst. For those of you who have not met her yet…
I continued to sit quietly with my back propped against a mossy Beech tree, whilst the vixen cub snoozed.
A short while later a bold rabbit came lolloping through the leaf-strewn wood. I watched it, wondering why on earth it would come so close to the foxes.
The young vixen sat up, ears pricked and eyes bright.
Down the bank she came, her hunting instincts up.
What happened next was very funny.
The cub ran as fast as she could towards the rabbit, but when she was about ten feet from it, she stopped. “What do I do now?” she seemed to wondering. At little more than half its size, she had no hope of catching it!
The rabbit knew this too. It stared rather disdainfully at the cub for a few seconds. Then it stamped a hind foot and was off into the undergrowth. At this the young vixen ran forwards again…
…and started to hunt through the leaves (as though the rabbit had somehow hidden itself in them).
Far safer to play at catching something imaginary than to attempt the real thing!
Eventually she worked her way right round the tree I was leaning against, popping her head out of the far side.
For a moment we looked at eachother. I don’t think she really knew what I was, but she was downwind of me now. Catching my scent, she turned and made her way back the way she had come.
Off up the bank…
…into the safety of her Earth.
And that was the last I saw of her (for that day).
Suddenly I was alone again on the old path through the woods, listening to the Beech trees whispering, my body filled with that uniquely-rich gratitude that comes when nature shares her secrets with us.
I sat for a while with my back propped against the mossy trunk of a large Beech tree. My heart was still thumping from watching the two cubs playing in the sun, when a movement to my left caught my eye.
This is what I saw.
Another cub, moving from left to right, almost in the centre of the picture. Isn’t it amazing how camouflaged they are, given their fur is such bright orange when you see them close-up?
This one was even smaller than the others, a vixen cub. She made her way up one of the many runnels in the bank, paths made smooth by the passage of foxes and badgers over the years, but when she went into the Earth there was a scuffle and a yipping: the boys obviously did not want her to join them.
Seconds later she reappeared, made her way down the bank and found a sunny patch to sit in. If you look hard, you can see her right in the middle of this picture, in profile.
She soon curled up to have a sleep.
All I could see was one of her ears, sticking up the far side of a root.
I was downwind so I knew she could not scent me. Moving as slowly as I could, I shuffled towards her, using the palms of my hands to lift my weight off the ground whilst I inched forward.
Bit by bit I got closer…
Until I was only a few feet away.
There was a big smile on my face as I watched this beautiful wild animal, fast asleep, entirely unaware of my presence.
Let’s leave her there for now, dreaming her foxy dreams!
Not far from where I live, a road leads up a steep hill. Beech and Sycamore trees reach over it. I call it “The Cathedral”. Every time I walk or drive down it, excitement tingles in my fingertips.
Leading off into the woods is an old path. It’s my favourite of the paths nearby, perhaps because I’ve never met another human being on it!
The other day, however, I did meet someone. Or rather several someones.None of them were human, but they all brought a smile to my face.
Here are two of them.
Two young fox cubs, no more than a few weeks old.
As soon as I saw them, I crouched low to the ground. These were no tame town-foxes, but wild things, wary of the wind itself.
Unaware of me, they played together, chasing each other around and having mock-wrestling matches. (You can just make out the second one here, being pounced-on by the first!)
They soon got tired and for a while they rested in the sun.
Then it was time for a bit of foraging…
…finding tasty things in amongst the leaves.
One of them then headed up the bank and lay snoozing in a patch of sunlight.
Here he is again, just waking up!
The other cub pottered off down the old path…
…before returning again for a last hello.
Then they both disappeared into their Earth.
All in all, I had watched them for twenty minutes or more. What a wonderful surprise that was! There was more to come, too, but we’ll save that for next time…
Enjoy your weekend.
I’m happiest when I’m outside, exploring. The weather has been extraordinarily wet here recently, but I still make sure I get out for at least a part of every day to immerse myself in the wonders of the natural world.
I love to nose around, looking at things close-up, imagining what it might be like to live as a tiny bug, a bird, or flower. With this in mind, I thought I’d do some simple posts to give you a snapshot of some of the things growing in my neck of the woods. Let’s start with this dandelion, its yellow petals now transformed into a miniature snow-ball.
When I was small, we used to play the game with old flower heads like this one, blowing them to see what the time was (however many puffs it took to blow off all the seeds, that would tell you time!).
Another variant, when we got older, was “She loves me! She loves me not!” After each phrase we’d blow at the seeds. If the last seeds blew away on “She loves me!” all was well in our romantic endeavours, but if they blew away on “She loves me not”….well, I don’t suppose we took much notice! (Of course, it was easy to rig this game, giving an extra-strong puff when we wanted to!)
I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to examine a dandelion-head really closely until now. Have a look at this. The umbrellas at the end of each seed-stalk look a bit like amoebas…
Or should that be brain cells?
“As above, so below…”
In the flowers where some of the seeds have already blown away, you can see how amazingly each one is constructed, with their miniature parachutes on the outside…
And their barbed seed-heads sticking to the pin-cushion at the centre.
The barbs are for catching onto passers-by, so that the plant does not rely solely on the wind to disperse its seeds.
With this combination of aerodynamic design and adhesive seed-heads, it is not surprising that the fields and hedgerows around here are simply filled with dandelions!
The leaves of the dandelion make wonderful food for rabbits and the root can be ground into a powder for use in a decoction that will help urinary infection. A word of caution, though. If you are going to pick the flowers, wear gloves. The juices are very astringent and can cause a nasty rash!
If you like exploring nature, I think you’ll enjoy my book Watchers, which is the first in a series for both children (12+) and adults. Have a look at some of the 5-star reviews on amazon and see what you think!
Until next time,
Best wishes, Essi.