An English Summer: Patterns of nature, ripening blackberries and a sketchbook

The last time I wrote about these fields was in late April. The seedlings had just started to show themselves in thin rows under a grey-blue sky. The house martins had just made their return to nest in the eaves of our house, and were circling above us in an otherwise quiet and sleepy landscape.

What a difference a few months can make.

July has finally broken into sunshine.

My 12 year old son is with me today. He loves to draw, so has brought his sketchbook along. At first we talk together about our day, until the undulating path before us proves irresistible and he charges off, skimming his fingers through the swaying wheat as he goes.

A pair of cabbage white butterflies flutter skywards in a helix-like courtship dance, before disappearing again. This year we have seen more varieties than ever before and today we spot not just cabbage whites but common blues, peacocks, tortoiseshells and orange tips.

On the sunny south side of the farm, the corn grows tallest. The waxy leaves clatter against each other; like the sound of a polite applause.

We crouch down, looking along the lanes between the crop drills, so neatly ordered that you can see right to the other side of the vast field. For a moment our perspective tilts and it seems as if we have shrunken to miniature size, surrounded by towering blades of grass.

In the hedgerow beside the path, the blossom is bathed in full sunlight and has unfurled early this year. The blackberries are already ripening and will be ready to pick in just a few week’s time.

In the meadows, there is a constant low clicking of grasshoppers. It reminds us, joyfully and somewhat unnervingly too, that everywhere is teeming with unseen insect life.

Then, a dash of metallic blue across our path … a dragonfly! Utterly distracted from our uphill climb, we try to spot more. Our eyes steadily grow accustomed to the flickers of glinting colour. Soon it is like we are standing knee deep in an aquarium of darting tetra fish. A giant one; we follow after. It zigzags at speed and then disappears in a flash of silver.

The blackberries in the upper field are a few week’s behind those we saw earlier. It is shadier here and the stems have to put all of their energy into seeking better light before they can even think of producing flower buds. The effect is a glorious unfurling of pink petals, cascading over the top of the hedgerows. A heavy floral scent hangs in the air.

The more challenging stage of our hike now complete, we settle down for a rest. My son sketches stems of wheat, the distant horizon and outlines of trees. I am nearby, photographing clusters of bees.

We are so immersed that when someone passes by and calls “hello” we both jump slightly. It is a local artist, out searching for butterflies to paint. We point him in the direction of the lower meadows where we found countless common blues and tortoiseshells.

On the way home, my son pauses every few steps to sketch. I fall a few steps behind so that he feels no need to hurry.

As we pick up pace together, the fast chatter, from when we first started out, has disappeared. Instead, we find ourselves remarking on the nature around us. A flock of rooks flies over and we stop to watch their progress until they are tiny specks on the horizon.

Walking onwards, we remain like this, living in the moment, until the rooftops of houses appear over the tree line and thoughts turn back to the day ahead.

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45 Comments

  1. Nice photography and commenting along the way! I’m glad you have blue skies overhead. โค๏ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง

    1. Thank you! It makes a nice change to see some summer skies at last! We had a giant lightning storm last night though ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Thankfully the sunshine returned today ๐ŸŒž๐ŸŒฟ

    1. Hello! Yes thank you ๐Ÿ™‚ The weather has been so lovely Iโ€™ve been happily lost in the countryside with my camera for a few weeks! Hope you and your beautiful family are well – Iโ€™m so behind on the list of blogs I follow, I need to catch up ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. What a beautiful way to start the day. I can see all your children growing up to be thoughtful, kind, compassionate adults with a love of the outdoors and appreciation of the simple things in life. They’ll be nature lovers and with a care for the environment too.

    With better way to nourish our souls and become caretakers of our flora and fauna in these difficult times and far into the future.

    1. I think these difficult times have made me fall even more in love with the fields and woodland close to our home. And fresh air suddenly seems like a much more valuable commodity. Hope all is well with you Vicki x

      1. Thank you so much ๐ŸŒฟ Iโ€™ve spent an entire week outdoors, under blue skies and, last night, in a lightning storm … I need to tear myself away, spend an afternoon at my desk and do some writing! I love sharing the walks with you ๐Ÿ˜ƒ xx

  3. Beautiful! A precious day with your son; thank you for sharing it with us ๐Ÿ˜Š The landscape reminds me of the wide open fields in my old haunt in north Oxfordshire although there the crop was oilseed rape. Still with the path diagonally across the field though.

    1. When we have driven through Oxfordshire there are parts that really do look like home to me! ๐Ÿ™‚ The paths here are ancient rights of way, so they shortcut across fields and the crops canโ€™t go there. I imagine Oxfordshire might be the same ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Your wheat looks different than ours. Perhaps different varieties? I used to pick loads of wild blackberries–fought the thorns and the cattle for them. Do you take each child separately on your morning hike? Time alone with Mom that they look forward to enjoying?

    1. I do! I take each of my five children walking, just the two of us, each week. In a big family, itโ€™s lovely to get 1-1 time with them all. It also makes every walk totally different ๐Ÿ™‚โ™ฅ๏ธ

    1. I have an imaginary perfect farm in my head, but Iโ€™m quite happy to live on the edge of fields in a normal house at the moment – five children take a lot of my time ๐Ÿ˜ƒ One day though … ๐ŸŒฟ

      1. The edge of the fields at least put you near all the gorgeous greenery! So much better than the concrete jungles that so many people are stuck in.

  5. Thank you for sharing this walk. We walk through one field which we were starting to think was being left fallow till suddenly the maize appeared, pushing us to the hedgerow. A former hop garden, oasts visible a couple of fields away, now homes with views down to the city.

    1. Thanks Will … the speed at which these crops go from invisible to (in our case) nearly six foot is quite incredible! Same here – we live sandwiched between the city on one side and farmland and forests to the other ๐ŸŒฟ

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