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Hawthorn and Tor.

Hawthorn and Tor.

If last month’s hedgerows were hunched under the weight of the rain, this month they bow further still with a bounty of plumping fruit. Thanks in part to the consistent water so generously spouted from the heavens, the hedgerows have become abundantly decorated with an outpouring of shiny round treasures, the climax to nature’s trinity of giving; foliage, flowers, and fruits, during the Summer months.

As nature’s grand harvest parade gets underway, the seeds, nuts and fruits fall from the heavens as if there is no end to their numbers, and the local creatures are presented with a sizeable banquet in which to indulge. As they do so, the seeds held inside the fruits are passed through the digestive system and delivered to the ground in some nearby place, complete with a handy parcel of fertiliser, to complete the next stage of the cycle.

Long Hawthorn Hedge - Glastonbury Tor

Long Hawthorn Hedge – Glastonbury Tor

It is the time of the year known as “the reddening” – one of the most mutable of months when the gold and green of summer becomes imbued with the redness of late Summer’s feast. From a distance, the hedgerows appear to be blushing with the rich red hue of haws. A field on Well house lane has a hedge that stretches up the slopes of the Tor for at least 80m, and is packed full of rosy haws creating a red wall that pops in contrast to the lush green.

Guelder-rose Berries

Guelder-rose Berries

In the orchards, as the apples ripen the fallers fill the air with an intoxicating aroma of fermentation. On the orchard edges, the dark blue polka dots of sloe show a purple so deep beneath a skin so cloudy that the taste could only be severely sour, while parasols of elderberries, clusters Guelder-rose, bunches of rosehips, fountains of blackberries, branches full of plums, all eagerly invite us to their grand banquet. Note: Elder, Rosehip and Guelder rose require appropriate preparation before being edible by humans.

Up in the canopies, the fruits of all the tall trees are now well matured, the squirrels are busy feasting upon acorns and beech nuts, while setting some aside for the coming months. At this time of year the walk down Bulwarks lane develops a different texture, a dusting of discarded husks crunch underfoot, while the sound of beech nut pieces descending through the foliage creates a relaxing rain-like pitter-patter.

Open beech nut

Open beech nut

Beech nuts are such satisfyingly tactile objects that quench my thirst to fiddle far more efficiently than any other seeds and constantly find their way into my pockets. The coarse, bristly and apparently impenetrable (to all but the squirrels) outer shell holds a treasure inside that requires some patience to fully appreciate. Once pocketed, over the course of a day or two, the shell peels open from the tip like some strange earthbound mollusc to create a shape that resembles nothing of the original clasped form, a four pointed star with a velvety inner lining upon which are placed two golden beech nuts, like a piece of fine jewellery displayed neatly on a cushion.

Field Maple with seeds and Dragon Fly

Field Maple with seeds and Dragon Fly

In the town, the rowans, planted mostly in gardens and in public spaces, are displaying weighty bunches of bright red berries, the yews and holly are also at it, while in the High Street the white beams start to ripen their fruits to provide meals for the town dwelling birds. Strangely, the Holy thorn has also started to flower, perhaps an early show of its coming winter display.

Upon bushy coombe, Grandmother lime sports her mature seeds, a spherical nut-like berry beneath a unique leafy bract, and has started to liberally cast them off on recent strong winds. Other windy trees: the various Acers, Sycamore, Norway, and Field maple, are all stacked with their two winged samaras, and the ash trees are hung with bright green bunches of their one winged samaras, the ash keys.

Up on the Tor, the sheep have not been put to graze this Summer which has allowed the grasses to grow taller and thicker, for wildflowers to appear and mature, and has given the mound an added bounce and presence. The ascent has been made a more pleasant experience as the grass softens the paths and steep drops with a waist high border, and a further benefit is that we are no longer required to dodge sheep droppings!

Glastonbury Tor with Badger Paths

Perhaps most interestingly the long grass has revealed a beautiful secret: a number of badger paths, known as pads, can be seen extending vertically from the base of the Tor travelling straight up to reach the top.

I have witnessed many badgers around the base of the Tor, sometimes tailing them around the terraces as I perambulate the hill – it had not dawned on me that they might, under cover of darkness, climb to the top.

Up there, I imagine the badgers slowly emerging over the tor’s summit, families of ‘Pied snuffle-gruffs’ convening from all corners of the hill’s circumference, like a nightly calling of the clans held quietly upon the tallest hill around, the point at which all of their territories come to meet.

Intricate Skies

Intricate Skies

In the skies, the light and water have been collaborating on some wonderful elevated exhibits. Over the course of the month cloud formations indescribable in their intricate beauty and variety of form have gathered to paint some of the most epic skies.

The landscape of Glastonbury, an elevated platform surrounded by flat farm land provides wide angled vistas perfect for viewing the show and when the low evening sun shines from the west across the levels, cutting through the precipitating clouds, huge fully formed rainbows are raised above the landscape, sometimes arcing synchronistically over significant monuments and trees like they are signalling doorways to other worlds.

A recent evening walk was blessed with the most persistent rainbow I have ever witnessed, observed in its entirety from a dry spot beneath a hedgerow oak on Stone down, it remained present in completeness for around fifteen minutes and lasted partially for over half an hour.

Rainbow Over Stone Down Oaks

Rainbow Over Stone Down Oaks

So regular are the occurrence of rainbows over these lands that the Isle of Avalon could easily be nicknamed, ‘The Rainbow Isle’.

All around are the signs of Summer’s slowing, the season’s progression becoming increasingly tangible, felt upon the skin, in the breath, and tasted on the air long before any significant changes to the colour of foliage.

As the apples thump the ground with ever increasing regularity, we feel two seasons simultaneously. Our left foot strides into Autumn while our right foot remains planted in the precious remaining warmth. All the business of reproduction is dealt with, seeds are ripe and ready to leave the trees. Now, we gather and give thanks for nature’s bounty and we adjust ourselves in preparation for the coming change of season.

MW – 31/8/23



A Visual Diary – August

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Matt Witt

Author Matt Witt

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