Changing Seasons – July

Month seven of my photographer’s nature journal.

It is frightening how quickly the year is passing by. The lanes around me have been well and truly scythed to the ground. It does make it easier to see around corners and find the passing places without fear of crashing into a stone wall, but I could weep at seeing the destruction on the hedgerow shrubs, the naked bark just hacked by the shovel of the tractor. The cascading honeysuckle ripped away. At least the cow parsley and wild carrot should have had time to disperse their seeds.

So turning my eyes away from the lanes I set out once more to discover what the cliff tops of Cornwall could offer me. This time the north coast not so far from Newquay, the hotspot of 1950s and 1960s childhood beach holidays which later became a  mecca of hen and stag and  16-18 school-leavers parties. More recently it has begun to clean up its act and revert to a surfers’ town and one for families to enjoy.  West Pentire south of the town is home to Crantock beach, Polly Joke beach and Holywell beach – with its soaring dunes pretty familiar to any Poldark viewer.

I have wanted to visit this region to capture the vision of wild poppies and corn marigolds blooming among the arable fields, but I left it too late. Next year it is on my calendar for June and I shall go every week until I see this spectacle.

Although disappointed that I had missed the poppies and corn marigolds,  I had timed my visit to get onto the beaches at low tide. First a walk down to Polly Joke as it is locally named (Porth Joke), but this post is not about the walk, or the beaches, they will come soon I promise. This is about the diversity of the land I discovered along this headland.

Artwork of expired Poppies and Corn Marigolds

West Pentire has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.  The most diverse part of arable fields
is usually the field edges where crop seed is not sown. Environmentally friendly farmers leave a margin around their fields (called a Wildlife Strip or Conservation Headland) where they don’t spray pesticides or fertilisers. This encourages wild plants to grow. Because the plants provide food for invertebrates such as ground beetles and spiders, which are predators of crop pests such as aphids, there is less need to spray crops with pesticides. This is turn provides food for the skylarks, yellowhammers and lapwings which in turn are hunted by Buzzards and Harriers.

The beautiful distinctive seed-head of the Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) which looks like a bird’s nest

I did see skylarks, I even attempted a photo or two, but they fly very fast and just rise vertically out of the field in an instant.

The skylark is Wordsworth’s ‘ethereal minstrel,’ and Shelley’s ‘blithe spirit‘, while John Clare proposes we ‘listen to its song, and smile and fancy’: the song of the skylark has inspired more poets than any other.

Leaving the fields behind I headed downhill to the beach where coastal plants are to be found. Some I recognise, others I don’t.

I regret not taking closer photos of the Sea Spurge. The stems are slightly fleshy and glaucous – nice word – meaning bluish-grey or green. And their cup-shaped flower heads are astonishingly beautiful. Next time.

I then drove to the sand dunes  (Towans) of Holywell bay and discovered more species of coastal plants. Clustered around the tiny river (more of a stream) I recognised Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet) because it grows in my garden. It looks so pretty next to the water.

I also recognise some sort of Allium plant, though not one I know. It is very similar to some chives that I grow, though much, much taller. I later find out it is Babington’s Leek (Allium ampeloprasum) a native perennial herb which grows up to 2 metres.

Babington’s Leek – Allium ampeloprasum

On the sand dunes themselves I stumbled across a patch of Sea Holly. The most beautiful form simply growing in the sand.

Just admire the shape and texture of those leaves.  I am beginning to find photographing wild flowers more interesting than cultivated ones. They are not always in good condition and not always easy to capture being hidden amongst other plants, but it is fascinating to discover so many species.

Sea Holly and Marram Grass

And of course I cannot leave this post without a closer look at the Marram grass which covers much of our coastline. It has tightly rolled, sharply pointed grey-green leaves, and produces large spikes of cream or pale yellow flowers in June. As a coastal plant, it is very tolerant of salt and sea spray, and grows in sand or very free-draining soil. It helps prevent erosion of sandy soil.

The Changing Seasons | July

51 Comments

  1. beetleypete says:

    A lovely look at your region, and illustrating the interesting text perfectly. I sometimes wonder if all we have to offer down here is nettles and bracken. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. Heyjude says:

      I am sure there must be more Pete if you look around. Didn’t you say there are orchids in the place where you take Ollie?

      1. beetleypete says:

        A few wild orchids, yes. I put them on a post last year. Not a great deal of anything that isn’t just ‘green’ though. 🙂

  2. It is always sad when the blooming season comes to an end, Jude, but there is still plenty of beauty to be found even when things fade. I love the changing of the seasons, especially as we change from summer to fall, my favorite time of year. These are all beautiful pictures, and I especially love the coastal grasses, the sea holly and Babington’s leek and spear thistles. I agree; wildflowers seem more interesting than cultivated ones. They seem to have more character. 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      It is interesting to see what can actually grow in pure sand! I know there are evening primroses just up the coast from here.

  3. pommepal says:

    Amazing diversity of flowering plants Jude. How is your garden surviving the hot summer? Have you had much rain? Just reported on tv tonight that July has been the hottest day time temperatures on record and dry too.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Not so hot down here PP. And we have had one or two showers, though for Cornwall it is looking a bit dusty. I have been watering my garden every two or three days especially the new plants that I bought this year. My only problem really is that it has been too hot to do much gardening. But I have enjoyed sitting in the shade and reading outside.

      1. pommepal says:

        Sitting in the shade with a good book is always a perfect way to spend hot days

  4. Tish Farrell says:

    Such an array of colours and textures, and that’s one thing this hot spell created – we’re getting the floriferous along with the desiccated.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Not sure how much there will be to photograph in August!

  5. Pit says:

    Beautiful!

  6. You capture these plants and blossoms so beautifully Jude, and then you share your thoughts in the most expressive way.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Ah, thank you Carol., just glad you enjoy the posts.

  7. Sue says:

    Marvellous collection of S images to showcase your region at this time of year, Jude! I look forward to the poppies next year

    1. Heyjude says:

      I am wondering what I can find in August! Might have to explore the coast again, or maybe the moors to find heather.

        1. Heyjude says:

          North Cliffs probably.

        2. Sue says:

          Should yield some interesting results

        3. Heyjude says:

          Maybe, maybe not 🙂

        4. Sue says:

          …if you don’t try, you don’t get!

  8. restlessjo says:

    What a wonderful summation of July, Jude! You’ve scooped it all up quite beautifully here. 🙂 🙂 And a sad/happy ending for Poldark.

    1. Heyjude says:

      You’d like walking around here Jo. I shall get to work on the beach posts now 🙂

      1. restlessjo says:

        I’d love it! I feel a tiny bit marooned at present. Why do I always want to be somewhere else? Nice day with the Algarve walkers at Bolton Abbey today. 🙂 🙂

        1. Heyjude says:

          Because you are the Restless One! Will you settle in Tavira or do you think you’ll still be wanting to be somewhere else? I imagine Mick will be happy just to find himself a nice sunbed on the beach.

        2. restlessjo says:

          Don’t be daft! Tavira will just be a different base to explore from. 🙂 🙂 And I’m sure Mick knows that. How much or how little he allows himself to be dragged around… well, we’ll see! 🙂

  9. Pete Hillman says:

    Fabulous series of photos, Jude! Wow, you have been snapping so busy! I can’t believe how fast this year is vanishing and getting ever closer now towards autumn!

    1. Heyjude says:

      I still want more summer, been a bit windy and cloudy here the past week so I am ready for some more sun before we head downhill.

      1. Pete Hillman says:

        So am I! I hope we get an extended summer.

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