Sunday, 19 April 2015

cowslips, childhood memory, edward thomas events, a conscious englishman by margaret keeping, 'junk food' wiping out bees

Saw my first cowslips of the spring this morning. In a place I'd never seen them before too - on the edge of the Thatcher's field, just below the millennium wood. Beautiful sight. Seeing them always brings back a childhood memory, first described in the 'faces of the countryside' post of 25th April 2010.

There are a number of Edward Thomas events coming up over the next few months. On May 16th a plaque will be unveiled on 113 Cowley Road in Oxford at 2 pm. The house was where Thomas moved to as a non-collegiate student at Oxford University in 1897 (the same year as his first book was published, The Woodland Life). You can read more about this event on Margaret Keeping's blog. (Margaret's wonderful novel about Edward Thomas is, of course, published by StreetBooks: '[Margaret Keeping's] inhabitation of Edward, Robert, Helen and their world is tender and subtle...A lovely novel.'  Robert Macfarlane.)

On Saturday 13th June, the National Trust are holding a May Hill Celebration event between 10 am and 4 pm. 2015 being the centenary of Edward Thomas' poem Words, which he was inspired to write on May Hill. The event will include arts and poetry and the judging of the Trust's May Hill Poetry Competition, and is very much a family day out.

It seems the mention of cowslips on jtns is destined to go hand-in-hand with a depressing nature article in the Times. In 2010 it a piece about the book Silent Summer. Today, there is an article entitled, '"Junk food" wiping out bees'.

The article is hidden behind the Times and Sunday Times paywall but its central theme is summed up in the second paragraph: 'Scientists have found that, as native plants are replaced by crops, bees face a double threat. One is that for much of the year they cannot find enough nectar and pollen to survive; the other is that, even when crops such as oilseed rape come into flower, their pollen is often nutritionally deficient - the bee equivalent of junk food - making it harder to raise young or fight infections.'

It also makes the sad point that 23 bee and flower-visiting wasp species have become extinct in the last 160 years 'starved of food and nesting places by land use changes, according to research published in Science.'

The article ends with a quote from Bill Kunin, professor of ecology at Leeds University: '"Any remedy will involve maintaining more stretches of pristine natural habitat... Bees need a balanced diet, same as us."'

I suppose that seeing the cowslips today and my memory of seeing a field full of cowslips as a boy reflects the dramatic changes in the British countryside. Now we are just so grateful to see three or four cowslip plants.

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