Campaign Diary: The spring flowers are beginning to burst | Wild flowers


JThis year, the particularly lavish and long-lasting blooms of former commercial narcissus—perhaps the bulbs benefited from the cool, wet weather last August—call attention to other floral indicators of the advancement of spring.

On the sheltered banks along the narrow lanes, primrose, violet, curling ferns and stitchwort already merge between the bluebells, while dandelion, nettle, dock and blades of grass at hens dominate the edges and soles of the hedges. Beside the stony track of Barrett’s Mill and the former silver-mining area of ​​Fullaford Road, primroses grow on long stalks among the rabbit-scraped earth, all overwhelmed by the freezing winds and the smell tasty from the Callington Pasta Factory.

Further south, around warmer Burraton, the celery alexander, with its yellow/green umbels, proliferates along the small road; an unpaved lane leads downhill past small grassy fields dotted with rogue daffodils – survivors of the days of market gardening. This enclave was once a hub of productivity, intensively cultivated by the tenants of the Cotehele estate, growing fruits, vegetables and flowers. The 1840 tithe map shows cherry gardens, a nursery, strawberry plots, and a willow garden (probably for making baskets and trays), and narcissus and strawberries were regularly picked for sale until at the end of the 20th century.

Across the little stream from Smeaton Farm, on steep north-facing pastures followed by cattle, neglected linear patches of daffodils – pale-petalled and orange-cupped – still bloom every year; trees recently planted by the National Trust are protected from rabbits and further protected from summer grazing oxen by substantial wooden fencing.

The Primrose Path to this land is signposted as one of the parish’s heritage trails, scenic between high banks of cut woodland growth, interwoven with tendrils of honeysuckle among early cherry blossoms. Wilted Pheasant’s Eye Daffodils tangled among brambles atop the hedges and naturalized in the bluebell wood around Quarry Cottage.

Best of all is a complete “butter and egg” bank. This narcissus, dating from the 1700s, once appreciated for its fragrance and its magnificent double flowers, has been abandoned in favor of more “modern” varieties adapted to picking in bud. How unusual, and how wonderful, to see a patch of it here, thriving in such abundance.


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