Historically August can be quite a wet month and is statistically less likely to have long spells of sunny holiday weather than July. This August of 2016 is certainly following the trend.
August is the traditional month for the harvest in the British Isles, which is the reason it became the main school holiday month. In the past village children were recruited to help with the then labour-intensive process and the first general Education Acts drawn up in Victorian times, providing general primary education for all, took this into account. Even the youngest child could play a useful role in keeping the pigeons and crows away from the gleanings (spilt grains).
Finally, this mid-afternoon, having waited patiently all day for an interval of more than half-an-hour without signs of imminent rain, I seized my moment and headed for the hill. Not confident the break in the rain would last long, I didn’t linger on the pathway up through the woods, only stopping to photograph a Sycamore leaf afflicted with Tar-Spot fungus …..
…. and those of a shrubby plant I don’t recognise, well-patterned by leaf mines.
A quick look over the fence on the wood’s edge didn’t look too promising; the Carneddau mountains to the west were veiled heavily by approaching rain clouds.
I reached the Woodland Trail in record time for me, again stopping only briefly by the big bramble to note any activity on the late flush of newly-opening flowers. Just a male Tree bumblebee and a Meadow Brown butterfly. (It’s fairly easy to spot male bumblebees as they have no pollen baskets and no real purpose other than to eat to stay alive for as long as possible, so they don’t rush about like workers).
I had reached the line of used-to-be-coppiced Hazels when the rain arrived. Fortunately the foliage of the tree canopy is so dense there that hardly a drop got through, so I was kept dry even minus a waterproof. The Hazels here produce few nuts; perhaps because they know their efforts will be squandered by Grey Squirrels; they take them while still green, have a quick nibble to reach the soft kernel inside, then cast them to the ground when they are done.
I waited until I could no longer hear rain on the tree leaves and carried on walking, noting how surprisingly green and fresh-looking the greenery was for this time of year.
However, despite the greenery there are sure signs that this summer is past its peak. In Adder’s Field the Burnet roses are bearing fruits; the hips already dark red although not yet as dark as they will become. The Wild onion flowers are coming to an end and they too are producing fruits; tiny bulbils which will sprout in situ, then drop to the ground and produce roots ready to grow into a new plant.
Stretched vertically between the rose stems was the tightly woven web-tent of a Nursery-web Spider. Peering down to its base I tracked down the weaver to where she was hiding, only some of her legs properly visible. These spiders are quite big and clumsy-looking yet produce such surprisingly fine web fabric; it’s like a piece of silk organza. (Arachnaphobes maybe scroll down quickly now!)
The Wild clematis, or Old-man’s Beard as it will become, is in flower too, another signaller of the slide into Autumn.
On the opposite side of the field the swathe of Hemp Agrimony is in full flower and after the rain, the warming sunshine was drawing out a crowd of insects, literally buzzing with excitement at the abundance of nectar and pollen on offer.
Again, takers were mostly male bumblebees with a few hoverflies and butterflies.
Sightings of Gatekeeper butterflies were top of my wish-list for today. I had already seen a few flying about in the last few days, but was pleased to find my first photographable one of this year. Its tiny size was emphasized by the proximity of a large Red Admiral on a neighbouring flower.
Nearby, ragwort was also working to attract pollinators. A damaged 6-spot Burnet had taken respite on a flowerhead and was still there hours later when I passed it on my way home. There were more male bumblebees, hoverflies and a tiny black-and-white striped bee.
At the top end of the field a patch of umbellifers – tall Hogweed amongst shorter Upright Hedge Parsley.
In previous years I have found a few stems of Red bartsia in flower amongst the long grass at this end of the field; this year there is a significantly larger patch of this interesting semi-parasitic plant.
Given a week or two to finish ripening, a good crop of berries on the Rowan tree should keep the blackbirds going for a while.
Break here to sit on my favourite rock (still slightly damp), have a drink of water, eat a peach and scribble down notes before heading up towards the summit.