Moor to Coast

Stoke Gabriel

28/04/2012 - 14:38

It's always a pleasure to come back to Stoke Gabriel. Today we commence our sedate stroll from the Quay, taking the riverside path. We pause to watch a Little Egret. It lifts its feet through the water with the delicacy of a ballet-dancer. I always think of egrets as I do herons; as wise, incredibly patient birds. They are majestic in flight, with their feet sometimes appearing tucked-in like an aeroplane's undercarriage at take-off.


Might they be the closest thing to watching an archaeopteryx or pterodactyl lording over the skies? But before we get thoroughly sidetracked, we have to remember birds are not the purpose of the day. It's new flowers we're after. And besides, across the pond, the ducks and herons and everything else are out of macro range. Anything we see will have to be the size of a Brontosaurus to fill the viewfinder.




Comma Butterfly (Polygonia c-album)


Instead, we wander into the village orchard and among the unkempt margins stumble across the magnificent specimen above. There is a fluffy, greenish tinge to the body and the bold, clear colours indicate this is a first brood. The position of the wings being flexed also give an impression of strengthening the muscles. We tend to think of butterflies as fragile creatures but what power there must be in those wings to keep them in flight for hours at a time in sunshine! And in daylight they get the fuel they need to soar. I cannot remember seeing a Comma before in this pose - with a curved bar across each wing as if each wing is comprised of two halves which have been fused together.


Leaving the path by the marshy, muddy part of the creek, we tread the partly-boarded walk and leave the water and momentarily the village behind: heading for the outskirts before heading back inward. We come to one of those footpaths which make you wonder if you should be venturing along it. By that, I mean that it seems only to be going into the back-end of someone's garden and the irate property-owner will appear from nowhere with a raised fork and a volley of oaths. As it turns out the path does lead somewhere and gives us our first new flower of the day.




Abraham-Isaac-Jacob (Trachystemon orientalis)


Close-up detail of flowers and hairy stamens.



A different view. From this angle the flowers appear similar to Fuchsias, hoop-skirted ladies dressed for the ball but blown up by the breeze. The plants appeared to be growing out of a compost heap, proving that many flowers can thrive in the unlikeliest of places.


From here it was up a grassy, tree-lined meadow, over a gate and down the other side, going round the intended path so as not to scare the sheep and their little ones. Lady was put on a short leash so she couldn't strain. The ewes quite rightly stood their ground and regarded the collie with mild disdain. Then we crossed the main road but soon turned-off to walk along Lembury Road. In the heat, a lot of the white Sweet Violets looked faded but further along the lane, up from the dusty bases of the hedge banks, the Blackthorn blossom looked fresh as a daisy.




Two views of the blossom of the Blackthorn tree (Prunus spinosa)



Notice how the subtle differences in the light affect each composition. In the second shot, there is also a visible diagonal silken spider's thread. This is something that we often miss in the field but only see magnified on the computer screen at home. But rather than edit it out and erase something out of existence, Sherry and I believe in the warts-and-all approach.

From Lembury Road, we turn back in towards the village, resting on a bench in Hoyle Copse, a community woodland. Behind us is the remains of a lime kiln, in front of us a lush pasture of feeding, docile cows. We share a can of Guiness and watch blue tits among the catkins, ladybirds in weightless flight. I wish every day was like today and I didn't have to go back to the daily grind. But at least when you're out enjoying the fresh air you can (for a while, at least) leave those worries behind.

Needless to say, neither Sherry or I are in any particular hurry to leave. The cows arrest our progress. We watch their social hierarchy in action, as one frisky calf is chased back and told to tow the line. He tries his luck once more, running off again, and in the process scaring two mallards from their watery spot at the bottom of the pasture. This time stern, reprimanding 'moos' from the head of the clan force the naughty youngster to calm down and behave himself. 





Keeping watch. Lady finds the cows equally fascinating.


Many flowers in the hedgerows have seen better days but in the shady places, these Greater Periwinkles look resplendent.





The colour cast is spot-on here. The camera picked out the exact tones we saw. On the whole I am very impressed by the Pentax K5. Occasionally it has its quirks and off-days but then no machine is perfect. When it gets things right, the colours just sing!


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