Sunday, 14 August 2016

Petrichor...

Petrichor     /ˈpɛtrʌɪkɔː/
noun
1.    A pleasant sweet, earthy smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.

Summer is sleeping. This is not a metaphor for recent weather, no, it is not the season that is asleep, it is my daughter. She has gone to bed full of strawberries and love after another day of playful adventure. Now we start the tidy up of a toddler smashed house before we have a good sit down.

Toys are returned to the toy box, pencils to the pencil case and I attempt to rub off the yellow crayon that now adorns the wall by the living room door. While doing this I notice one of her books on the floor, left open at a rather prophetic page…


It’s been an unusually busy week and I’m looking forward to a few hours on the Patch tomorrow, I head up to bed with the words from that page of Summer’s book rattling around my cluttered brain. All week I had been looking for a story to write on here but in my muddled state I couldn’t find one. I wanted that to change today.

I am out early, partly due to Summer’s penchant for an early start and partly to get a jump on the dog walkers, joggers and cyclists that will soon be on the Patch.

Grandparents have Summer to themselves for a few hours so they can enjoy her company without me watching how many sugary treats they are feeding her and I get some time on the Patch. A win-win if ever there was one.

There had been some rain overnight, the first to fall on the Patch for some time and this morning it feels fresh and smells lovely – sweet-ish, the soil almost good enough to eat. As odd as it sounds the Patch smells green today. Raindrops still linger on the flowers swaying in the meadows, adding a sparkle to the already impressive colours.


Not even a “mechanical” on the cycle ride from home can dent my enthusiasm. The Old Gooch patched up I continue towards the 5ive Fields* and the hedgerows of the Wirral Way.


Steller’s Field is quiet, a few pigeons are having a set to in the hedge at the back of Humboldt. These fields always do the trick, I feel myself becoming un-muddled by the reassuring calmness that is ever present here.

[* The 5ive Fields are a mosaic of pasture and arable fields that straddle the Wirral Way and form part of my favourite area of the Patch between Thurstaston and Heswall. Steller’s Field, Humboldt, Exhibition Field, The Yarnsie and Manhattan. They are names that only I use and those names really only have any significance for me.]

Opposite Steller’s is a field that I never pay much attention to. It is usually quiet save for the time I watched a Barn Owl hunting over it. Today there are a heck of a lot of Carrion Crows in it. With not much else planned I stop and count them. 336. A weasel zooms across the path into the crow field. I decide to name this field too. I call it Crow Nation.

On to The Yarnsie. The hedges twitch with recently fledged second brood Chiffchaffs and in the larger gaps between hawthorns Rose Bay Willowherb sways in the breeze. Still in a naming mood I rechristen this plant Rose Sway Willowherb, it seems more appropriate today.

I stop in one gap and look out across The Yarnsie, still with no idea about what today’s story is going to be.


A Cinnabar Moth caterpillar slowly climbs some Ragwort. The wheat is tall and ripe; every now and then a sorrel stem protrudes from it, looking like it has rusted in the sun to a shade of burned terracotta. Out there are hares, partridge, Skylarks and Lapwings, all unseen today, obscured by the fecundity of summer.

The spot I have selected in the hedge is agreeably shaded, the sun is high now and yesterday’s rain has evaporated in the heat. I decide to stay in the shade, I think I’ll always be a sun-dodger. The butterflies are not afraid of a few rays though and many flit by my shady glade investigating the yellow flowers tick-tocking in the breeze.

Something to point the camera at.


Small Copper, Gatekeeper and Speckled Wood oblige me with pictures.


The hedge hums with the buzz of bees, hoverflies and the clicks of my camera.


A Brown Hawker drifts past, working the hedge for its lunch. It briefly lands close to me then repeats its patrol another two times while I am there. It glides along then investigates a portion of the hedge, stopping to hover roughly every five metres. On each run it investigates a different spot, after three cycles it is satisfied it has 100% coverage of this section and moves further along out of sight.

I sit down for a sandwich and watch a small beetle climb a stem.


I lie on the sweet smelling ground to get an idea on its perspective of the meadow.


A goldfinch pulls at the head of a Thistle a few yards into the field. Some of the seeds drift off on the warm breeze, floating over the wheat and the bobbing yellow flower heads.

Soon enough I realise the Patch is the story and stop looking for a narrative and just enjoy it, a couple of hours slip by. By now I’m missing my little girl and I have a card full of photographs so I jump on the Old Gooch and pedal for home.

I arrive to find Summer buzzing around the yard, playing in the sand pit and watering the pots. She’s a real livewire - probably due to too many sugary treats. We spend the afternoon messing about with paints, toys and books and by her bedtime the house is trashed again. There is more crayon on the walls, little blobs of yellow like the flowers of The Yarnsie. This time I don’t rub them off.


We put away her toys and have a good sit down.

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