Fingle, hirundines, navelwort and squirrels

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.

Fingle Bridge

Fingle Bridge

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 Teign from the bridgeriver 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.

CalfToday the exiled routine returned to normal. A long walk in the country this morning. Saw this serene little calf, wearing what looked like yellow earrings.

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.Navelwort

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.


13 thoughts on “Fingle, hirundines, navelwort and squirrels

  1. Ergotism, isnt that what poisoned all those people in Barbara Comyns’s novel Who was Changed and Who was Dead?

    I enjoyed your post, and feel I should find Fingle Bridge for my 25 Bridges Challenge (see Bookword). It looks lovely. I was at Staverton Bridge yesterday and last week. Also very old, very Devon.


    • I’ve enjoyed the Comyns novels I’ve read so far, but haven’t read that one, so can’t confirm whether it was St Anthony’s fire that they suffered from – sounds like her sort of thing, though. Glad you enjoyed the post: it was heartwarming to meet the family properly and not via the internet, as it’s had to be for so long. The bridge is lovely: very narrow, but we saw a car squeeze over it. The little triangular bits jutting out are perfect for leaning out over.

  2. Sounds lovely, so pleased you got to meet the family. I was just thinking that it was the first summer I actually heard the cuckoo here in Britain! But with traffic back to normal now behind the hpuse, I doubt I will again.

    • We’d so missed seeing each other in real life, not just electronically. Lucky you to hear a cuckoo. Their calling season is about over now, so that’s it for another year. Traffic here is building up again, but still not back to pre-lockdown levels, thank goodness.

  3. This week I saw my son and his wife for the first time since Christmas… I missed a birthday in March because it coincided with my eye surgery, so it’s been a long time…
    BTW I notice the river is brown… is that a legacy of mining?

    • It’s been horrible not seeing family and friends during lockdown. As for the river, I think the brown colour is more because of the boggy, peaty higher ground it flows through on Dartmoor. Mining might also have been a factor.

  4. I’m glad to hear that you had an opportunity to meet with your daughter and her family last week, albeit in a socially-distanced way. That must have been lovely for you all. My next-door neighbours have been missing their three grandchildren terribly over the past three months, so they’re looking forward to having the occasional garden gathering amongst the five of them.

    As for cuckoos, I don’t think I’ve heard one either this season. Plenty of other birds, but sadly no cuckoo…

    • I’m sure the kids had grown several centimetres in the months we hadn’t seen them! Yes, it was lovely to be together again and enjoy the outdoors. I think the season for cuckoo calls is about over for this year.

  5. How lovely to see your family! I walked 8.5 miles on Saturday and got to meet up with my friend Meg then walk over to Ali (blogger Heaven-Ali)’s house and sit in her garden for a while. It was wonderful. And a lovely post as always, I do love hearing about all your walks and nature.

  6. Oh I put a comment but it’s vanished. I was very glad to see you’d had family time – I think my husband will get to see his parents at the weekend, which is brilliant. And I thought of these posts while reading the Fal chapters of Rising Ground this week!

    • Sorry you had a problem with commenting, Liz. Both have now appeared – don’t know what happened there. It’s good to know these lockdown posts are striking a chord. And yes, it was delightful to see family again.

      • How funny, both are there now indeed! Husband is seeing his parents, brother and SIL and niece and nephew as I type (while I am trying to resolve a failing online supermarket order – oh well!).

        • This one didn’t come to my mail inbox either – it was flagged as pending on WordPress site. Very strange. I’ve not been able to book a slot at supermarkets, but haven’t tried for a while – maybe easier now.

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