Our government relaxed the lockdown regulations a little last week. We took advantage and met with our daughter, son-in-law and their two children yesterday.
We met at a place roughly equidistant: Fingle Bridge, just outside Exeter. The River Teign runs through a beautiful wooded valley. The bridge arches over the tea-brown waters of a river stained by the peaty soil of Dartmoor. The building in the background of my picture is a picturesque pub, closed during the pandemic, but serving takeaway drinks and food from a stall outside.
It was lovely to see the family: February was the last time we saw each other face-to-face. We walked through the woods, socially distancing, and watched an exuberant black labrador leaping gleefully into the water after sticks thrown by his owner.
After a month of almost daily sunshine in May, June has been wet, grey and blustery. We drove up the A30 through squally showers, but fortunately the sun came out during our reunion, and we had a picnic beside the river.
The foxgloves are nearly finished, but the pale yellow spires of navelwort are springing up. It’s another wild plant that’s said to have medicinal properties. The 17C book by Culpeper on such matters claimed navelwort (or it might have been something similar) was good for curing St Anthony’s fire or ergotism, a common ailment in the middle ages. Also known as ergotism, it was caused by a fungus that grows on rye grass, and was ingested in the bread made with infected flour. Its sufferers went mad, hallucinating and writhing in agony.
Like comfrey, mentioned in a recent post, it is also a vulnerary.
Hirundines have arrived: swallows, martins and swifts. I remember when I was much younger there was a brand of cheap French wine that tried hard to appear sophisticated by sporting the gallic name ‘Hirondelle’. The wine was disgusting.
Another summer without hearing a cuckoo. I still haven’t spotted a kingfisher on riverside walks this year, but have seen several dippers, with their weird bobbing curtsey and darting flight. Grey wagtails, too, busily exploring the shallow water and tapping their tails (surely ‘wagging’ would be side to side, like a dog’s tail, not up and down?) Taptail would be an apter name.
My squirrel skirmishes continue. I remonstrated with one the other day for sitting on top of the pole from which my bird feeders are suspended, and trying to unhook one of the feeders. It ran off half-heartedly, turned as it perched on the fence and flounced its tail, like an English bowman taunting the French at Agincourt, chattering its squirrel insults at me.