After a spell of unseasonably cool weather during July, the sun came out to welcome the Littleborough rushcart. Decorated with shiny objects, topped with rowan, for protection, and preceeded by ‘dirty Bet’ (or ‘dirty Molly’) sweeping the street with her besom, the cart processes through town with stops for refreshment and dancing. From medieval times rushes were gathered for flooring, and to help to insulate houses, churches, and other buildings. It was good to see a vibrant community focus, shaped around the needs and ideas of young people, and that the Littleborough event, revived in 1981, is no longer oriented towards the church.
The cool damp weather meant that the heather, which is usually fragrant on our hillside by Lammas/Lughnasad, was late this year. My attention was drawn instead to the Great Hairy Willowherb, otherwise known as “Son-before-the-Father, Codlings and Cream, Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Gooseberry Pie, Sod Apple, and Plum Pudding”! These wonderfully evocative names that make a nice link to the festival of first fruits, relate to the flower’s ephemeral but delicate scent. Hirsuit Willowherb is said to be ruled by Jupiter, which seems appropriate given that the plant is often taller than me. (for more see here).
This summer has been a good one for local plant hunters. We paid our respects to one of two Green Flowered or Broad Leaved Helleborines, found recently, and not previously recorded in the area. sadly, the other specimin has already been dug up! On another walk I discovered a large patch of musk flower that hadn’t been noticed before, and seems to be the only one in the locality. Musk flower is an American variant of mimulus that’s naturalised in europe. (Both the musk and the helleborine were behind barbed wire fences, so no photograph).
The next image hopefully speaks for itself. I wanted to emphasise the texture of these water worn sandstone outcrops.
Finally, some seasonal fruit at the Incredible Farm Shop, a derelict Baptist chapel adopted by a congregation of nettles, and some Elecampaine -a favourite garden plant that we don’t have space to grow!
What a great post! Cheers to the abundance of the season!
Question: What are the thieving magpies endeavoring to steal?
Good Question. While pondering the morris team’s name about a week later, I spotted a young Magpie in the field below our house, bouncing proudly (‘hopping’ on both feet, as they do) round a small tree, with a length of tubular plant stalk in his/her beak, being chased by a riled sibling! No theft took place, but the intent was clearly there. The second bird eventually got bored, flapped off, and found his/her own length of stalk, picked it up, and proceeded to bounce along with it too, but by that time bird one had flown away …
I did think about contacting Thieving Magpie, to suggest they work some rather more bird-like moves into their (vigorous and noisy) repertoire 🙂 .
In Slavic as well as in Yoruban folk beliefs, the magpie is associated with witchcraft. The birds are often regarded as witches in disguise, flying about incognito to do their workings of weal or woe. I wonder if there are similar folk beliefs in British lore? I have some books to check once I get home. 🙂
Yes indeed. There are a whole series of stories specifically identifying Magpies as anti-Christian, which is a clue I think, and of course there’s the divinatory rhyme ‘one is for sorrow, two for joy’. They were particularly important to a good friend of mine, and I can attest to their extraordinary sensitivity. However, in my experience many, perhaps all, birds have these qualities. That’s what excites me about them.
It’s great to see so many young people involved in the rush bearing 🙂
The comments above made me think of Stone the Crows, our local border morris team in Lancashire, also connected with corvids (I’m pretty sure they don’t throw stones at them though). May be something in that… And yes to more bird moves!