With the worst of my deadlines over, we celebrated with a good, long ramble around one of our favourite valleys. This walk takes longer than most as there are always so many things to look at and wonder over. It begins with an unspoilt meadow full of unusual grasses and at this time of the year, cowslips. Cowslips used to be a common spring flower, but, like most of our native wild flowers, suffered a massive decline in the 20th century. due to 'agricultural improvements'. They seem to be recovering a little, and this field was happily covered in them.
Our start point looks down into the valley bottom which we will end up in; remember that large copse to the left and the yellow rapeseed field; they reappear towards the end.
It was to be a proper treasure hunt.
Early orchids. Not particularly rare, but uncommon enough to be wondered at.
The weather was overcast and a cool wind blow through the apple blossom as I looked backwards down the path - what happiness, to be out in the open after weeks of being cooped up.
Lambs are still being born - there were some very tiny ones scampering about and we watched in amazement as 15 or so buzzards circled overhead. I had always thought the stories of buzzards taking new lambs was an old farmer's tale, but with so many obviously watching the flock, we did wonder.
A Cotswold drystone wall carefully repaired -
- beautifully integrated with the older stones. Waste not, want not. No cement or mortar used here.
And another mend, further on, the wall dipping delicously with the contour of the land.
We stopped for a little picnic - hand made pork pies from our local Wychwood Deli, handmade here in Gloucestershire by the Cotswold Pudding Company. They were just the right size and unlike any mass produced pie I've ever had.
Full of pie we strolled on, but stopped in our tracks when we saw, some way away, a ewe who had apparently just lambed. My zoom lens picked up the afterbirth still dangling from the birth canal and the lambs themselves were wobbling about, with no farmer's mark on them.
We realised that many other ewes were lambless (but large) and the lambs tottering about were, like the earlier ones, very small and new. So (ignorant as we largely are over these matters) we had to assume that they were quite capable of sorting themselves out, as indeed, this mother was. It also cleared up the 'mystery' of the massed buzzards. Probably on the lookout for afterbirth and any sickly or dead lambs - I still don't believe they would go for healthy ones.
We stood quietly watching, some distance away and I took this little film of what must have been the first hour or so of their lives. In the background, apart from the wind, you can hear a skylark and a bumble buzzing past.
Further on, in an opposite meadow, the fathers taking a well earned rest after all that reproduction.
Now we began to descend to the valley bottom.
Where, in the scrubby woodlands, we found our first badger skull and a few other boney delights which went into my bag.
I'm not overkeen on this part of the walk; despite the bluebells and the cowslips, it has a slightly murky, unwholesome atmosphere as if something bad happened here a long time ago.
But at last we emerged on the wide track of the valley bottom - last seen in my earlier photos and the copse of trees which looked so bunchy and comfortable from our viewpoint.
And the once-distant-now-near rapeseed field.
Time to head home and a scramble up the slope to the left.
Finding on our way some small flowers which I've never seen before - another indication of how rich this patch is in variety and how generally sparse our flora has become. This tiny blue chap is Chalk Milkwort -
- and this funny, scruffy thing is Glaucous Sedge - not really a flower, botanically speaking, but a grass.
Best of all and in sad, solitary splendour - two wild Pasque Flowers, incredibly pretty, rather rare and growing only on a few selected chalklands in Britain.
A day of treasures - some to store in the memory chest and others...