March 2011

Some months go by and you can hardly see a difference from start to finish, whilst other rush by in a blur of change. February was just such a month; we started in the depths of winter but at the end are emerging into a glorious spring, full of blossom, catkins and spring flowers. I have never associated spring with such a bronze pallet as we are currently witnessing, but as winter held things back, everything of spring seems compressed into a a much steeper curve. One result of this is that the hazel and alder that can dominate some of our hedgerows have come out together and are smothered in bronze, golden green and amber catkins. When the (somewhat intermittent) sunshine catches such a spectacle it lights up the fields and creeks around it. Alongside my ever-present campion we have seen great swathes of snowdrops come and go with dismaying rapidity but have been delighted with the defiant show they have put on. The blue bells are showing fresh growth through all our woods and in the copses and spinneys that divide our beautiful countryside up into the delight that it has become. The first primroses are showing themselves, dubious of the guarantee of fine weather to come, and violets are peeping through in the sunnier hedgerows that remain sheltered from the westerly gales.

We have had several lovely walks this month although some of them have been spoilt by the appearance of graffiti and laminated litter over so many of our stiles. The first (walking 2 miles with the dog each morning does not count!) was round Nare head from Pendower beach. A sign telling us the coastal path was closed sent us up the road towards Veryan where we saw how much damage the floods had caused to verges and roadside embankments. Once we got through the fields back to the coastal path we saw sea birds beginning to repopulate the cliffs; Kittiwakes, fulmars and great black backed gulls were hunkered down in various nooks and crannies with herring and common gulls tracking breaking waves up and down the beach.

The seals are out in good numbers on the way to St Anthony’s Head from Porthtowan beach. We counted 10 one week and then 16 at the very end of February. I don’t know seal natural history at all well, but it was obviously a well mixed group with a couple of large males, a good number of females and several immature seals, possibly from last autumns births. If you know where they are go and see them before they disperse to sea again. As we left and walked back towards Portscatho we were amused to be watched in turn by three seals who seemed just as curious about us as we were about them. Each time we paused and turned to watch them, there they would be, swimming just beyond the surf and keeping us firmly in view. I have to admit that on land seals are not the most prepossessing animals, but in the water they are so beautiful and agile, I can stand and watch them for hours.

Yesterday we visited them again as we walked all the way down the headland to Zone point and round to Place then back via Bohortha to the car. This is a fabulous walk with open ocean coastline, sandy beaches and headlands giving way to the Percuil River where you can enjoy some of the best “Ferry Views” of St Mawes. The little church with its wonderful monuments to various Admirals is a very calming and special place. As we paused to admire their accomplishments and the skills of the masons, a shaft of sunlight pierced the gloom through a quatrefoil stained glass window and illuminated the main monument with a vivid splash of glorious reds and golds. The Church Conservation Society deserves all our support for maintaining these idyllic little gems. As you approach the church there is a row of beehives and we were pleased to see how active the inhabitants were. The spring sunshine must have worked its magic and there were lots of bees coming and going. I wonder why I admire bees so much (especially bumble bees) yet I cant tolerate wasps and hornets. I guess with bees a sting is the price you pay for nature’s bounty, whilst with a wasp all you get is pain!

Ian Bennett

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