In 1906, Edith Holden captured the essence of the glorious British countryside; making notes and drawing beautiful illustrations of the natural flora and fauna that surrounded her in her home county of Warwickshire. Her work was only published in 1977, having lain undiscovered for decades. So how might someone with a similar spirit fare in the digital age, one hundred and ten years on?
Having spent most of my life living in the rural Essex countryside, I feel quite at home. With my dog by my side, I too like to capture the sights and sounds; but on camera and through blog, a modern-day canvas and diary. The start of June wasn’t dissimilar to the what Edith had written in her diary entry for the first of June 1906, but this is how I saw it….
When May stormily swept into June, northerly winds tossed away any last remnants of the fast-fading spring blossom. Trees laden with their full growth were rudely uprooted and the accompanying heavy downpour of rain raised the river level to an unusual summer high. The dark, slate-coloured skies which clouded the horizon brought several days of deep depression, but once the sunshine returned the countryside reclaimed its vibrant colours.
The barley fields; now slowly turning from lime green, begin to radiate a familiar golden summer aura. Playing host to a family of mallard ducks, the lush, long stalks provide some valuable cover for the young ducklings from their natural predators. The fields’ edges are blushed by a haze of grass; the colours of vintage lavender and heather. And, dotted here and there, tangled field daisies and poppies adorn whatever space they can find.
Bright yellow meadow buttercups are in full bloom and pink and white campions decorate the landscaped territory for an alerted green woodpecker – easily provoked, he/she takes soundly flight at the sign of imminent danger, not that we are a threat…
The river now hides, flowing behind tall nettles, cow mumble, thistles and grasses, but a startled moorhen, protective of a nest, can be heard if not seen. Warblers and buntings flit in and out of the reeds, their tuneful chatter filling the air; while big purple clover heads reach through the grass and damselflies dance weightlessly on the breeze by the water’s edge. A pair of lapwings use impressive displays of aerial combat manoeuvres and sound their ‘electronic cries’ to warn rooks away from their young.
The peace and tranquility of the rail trail, once a busy route for noisy steam trains, is now overgrown with flowering wild roses, honeysuckle and elderflower – the heady scent filling the damp air. Rabbits run back and forth from the fields into the line, ever weary of a pair of lingering foxes hunting prey for their young cubs.
June paints Utopian thoughts of long, hot, days and heady mid-summer nights, brushing over the pretty pastel shades of spring and adding a vivid colour mix to nature’s palette.