Friday Flora – Cow Parsley and Salt

In recent weeks I’ve been driving about with my mouth open.

The hedgerows have been fantastic, overflowing with cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) and hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and I have been gawping.

Sadly I haven’t had many photo opportunities because people drive surprisingly fast around the Cotswolds, you slow down or stop at your peril, and I haven’t always had my camera with me.

On my way back from Oxford last Friday evening, however, I had my camera after a day of looking at college gardens, and found a track on a quiet road just outside Charlbury where I could park safely. It was dusk, but white flowers provide their own light. Oddly enough these aren’t the most spectacular hedgerows I’ve seen, but they’ll do. It was cool and spookily quiet, very few bird calls, and someone had silenced all the sheep. Cows were noticeable by their absence. No other cars drove past. I wandered up the track, even though I was supposed to be at home making supper.

I half expected to see a ghostly Roman soldier marching along in the gloaming along the straight track. It turns out that this wasn’t as unlikely as you’d think because this track is part of the Salt Way – when I looked it up later I found that it may date from Roman times. The Salt Way is certainly a very ancient track, and as its name suggests, it was an important route for bringing salt from the mines of Cheshire down to the River Thames. So it is apt that this path should be sprinkled liberally with white.

Nowadays the track is apparently an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) by reason of its interesting flora, some of it strongly associated with ancient trackways. I’ll be back to investigate further.

After several days of scorching heat this week most of the lights have now been switched off: Anthriscus and Crataegus have been all but extinguished and Sambucus nigra (elder) is beginning to glimmer but it has a lower voltage.

I got there just in time.

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The Salt Way

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