Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Cowslips and primroses

When I was a child, my mother would take my brother and I for long walks in the countryside. One of her favourites involved catching a bus to Wigmore or Hempstead, walking from there to the small (and very attractive) village of Bredhurst, and then through the lanes to Bredhurst Woods. I remember one particular occasion when the woods were carpeted with both primroses and bluebells at the same time and it was well nigh impossible to walk through the trees without trampling on the flowers. It is quite unusual for both primroses and bluebells to be in bloom at the same time, although it looks as though that might happen again this year so I am wondering if this is a result of the very cold winter. If that is the case, the occasion I am recalling might well have been in 1948. But whenever it was, in those days it was quite acceptable to pick great bunches of primroses. Bluebells weren't picked as they only last for about 24 hours as cut flowers, but primroses were popular. In more recent years the flower became much less common, supposedly because it was over-picked and had no chance to regenerate. Since picking wild flowers has become verboten, the plant has staged something of a recovery, although the best place to find it is still alongside railway lines.

This bout of nostalgia was prompted by driving down Ditchling Beacon yesterday en route to a village pub for lunch. I remembered driving the same steep, narrow, twisting lane a few years ago and exclaiming, 'Look, a cowslip', and then, 'And another!'. The cowslip was then a fairly unusual sight. I am pleased to say that nowadays one is far more likely to see great patches of the yellow flowers, especially on the Downs alongside the Brighton bypass. It really does seem to have spread like wildfire. I just hope the primrose manages as well.

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