Sunday, 4 September 2011

Ragwort Pulling

One advantage of having a parent with Alzheimers is that they like to reminisce so I am getting to hear a lot of tales about my Great Grandfather. He was a royal game keeper and lived in a cottage in Great Windsor Park. Although a game keeper, he also had a great affinity with all animals and wildlife, and for this reason I have always been told that I take after him. I am not sure he enjoyed his job as apparently didn't like the birds being shot and frequently complained to my mother about the 'toffs that killed his birds for fun.' He would also make up many tales to do with the countryside; when my mother was small and frightened by the noise of the rutting deer, he said that they were, 'just having a lovely party,' and to stop her from trampling on the crops in corn fields, he told her that if she did the, 'black spots of the Fluellen flower would jump out and stick to her!' For this reason I was particularly pleased to come across some Round Leaved Fluellen while Ragwort pulling on Saltbox SSSI as I had never seen it before..I can now see why my mother was always so particular about not trampling on even one blade of corn and it also might account for why, when I annoyed my big brother, he would threaten to 'put the black spot on me' which would result in running in terror and hiding under my bed:)

There has been a lot of Ragwort around this year and because it is very toxic to grazing animals, much of the summer has been spent removing it. It is back breaking work but has some advantages too as one notices things previously overlooked. Again on Saltbox SSSI we recently came across this lovely white Scabious amongst all the usual pale lilac ones...

...and a couple of weeks previously (same site and still Ragworting) we found several clumps of white Marjoram amongst the usual purple Marjoram.

Around the same time I also found, what I am guessing, was an albino slow worm under one of the reptile refuges we have there. It was a very pale, creamy, grey and totally devoid of stripes (annoyingly I didn't have my camera with me). It reminded me that we used to have an albino badger that regularly visited our garden, one of several that frequented the area, especially around Saltbox. It wasn't completely white but a very light cream colour. Unfortunately, since our neighbours got three Rottweilers and a Jack Russel Terrier, the badgers no longer visit us so I don't know if this strain still exist amongst our local badger population.


Anonymous said...

Hi Helen...Your great grandfather sounds an interesting man. I will look out for Fluellen now.

Helen said...

Yes I think he must have been...wish he had written a book or kept a diary.