The bluebell is common throughout England and Ireland, but is now rare in the rest of Europe and completely absent in the rest of the world. It is a member of the lily family. Its shoots emerge in January, it flowers in April and May and by June it has disappeared for another year. Because it does most of its growing and flowering early in the year, before the leaves on the trees open, it has plenty of light and so is able to replenish nutrients stored in its bulb. Its pollen and nectar rich flowers are also an important early food source for bumblebees, hover flies and butterflies. Our native bluebell, however, is under threat from the more aggressive Spanish variety which was introduced to English gardens nearly 300 years ago. This is easier to grow, less choosy about its habitat and can rapidly meld with its host and change its biological make-up. Increasingly it is spreading from gardens into the wild and into the preferred habitat of the English bluebell – the woodland areas. The English bluebell is much slower growing than its relative taking 5 years from the seed stage to flower and even then is in no hurry to spread. One study discovered the flower extends its range by only 50m in 35 years. Because of this slow spread they are considered an indicator of an ancient woodland site (one that has been in existence since before 1600 and may link back to the wildwood that grew across Britain after the last Ice Age) whether there are trees still there or not. This April and May look out for the bluebells we planted under the trees by the Sports Field main entrance and visit one of our local ‘bluebell woods’!
Know your Bluebell!
Did You Know?
• The bluebell is a symbol of constancy and is probably the origin of the ‘ …. something blue ….’ that a bride should wear on her wedding day.
• Folk myth has it that bluebells ring to call fairies to meetings.
• Bluebell glue was used to attach feathers to arrows in the Bronze Age and by bookbinders in the
• It is estimated that the UK has half the world’s population in wild bluebells.
• Bluebell plants are poisonous. The chemical that makes them poisonous was used in alchemy and is being researched by modern day scientists for medical use.
• It is illegal to uproot any wild plant without the landowner/occupier’s permission and since 1998 it has been illegal to uproot or pick for sale wild bluebells.
Only eight long walkers today and no dogs. Given the overnight rain and the strong wind it is perhaps not surprising. We set off down the black path and into Butts Close and walked down to the Charlton Road. Once over the stone stile by the Dad’s Army hut we crossed the three fields to Lower Walton Grounds. The second field was very claggy underfoot, the rain came on again, and the wind felt strong and cold, bracing, I think it’s called. Once down in the valley we circled behind the farm buildings, crossed the little footbridge and walked up to the track along the valley. The sun made an appearance, albeit briefly, as we walked along the mud layered track, passed through the next field and across the next bridge. We continued towards Charlton and turned left to pass up through the old stone pits and out into the village opposite the school. We walked down through the village and took the path across to Rainsborough Camp , along the ridge to Green Lane and back to the pavilion, grateful for the hot drinks and lemon drizzle cake. A big thank you to Simon for being emergency back up. Thankfully no emergencies arose and we should have two more qualified leaders after today’s training session at Kings Sutton.
Gill produced a delightful programme with a strong accent on nature. The flight of the “Bumble Bee” by Rimsky Korsokov and Delius “On hearing the first cuckoo in Spring” were followed by “Lark Ascending” again by Delius. Recordings of the actual bird song were played after each item. Later Saint Seans “The Swan” continued the avian influence, without however a recording of bird song, we presumed it was a “mute swan”. Several musical jewels were included in the first half “Clair de Lune” and “Moonlight Sonata”, Mendlessohn’s “Hebrides” and a jolly musical arrangement of poem by Betjeman “The Agricultural Caress”
After the interval two modern and unusual performances “The Man from the Snowy River” by Banjo Paterson and “Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin livened us up. This to be followed by Shostakovich, Elgar and Listz and the wondergul uplifting strains of Beethoven’s 5th movement from the “Pastoral Symphony”. Thank you Gill for a great programme.
Next Meeting Wednesday 1st April in the Village Hall
The weather was colder than expected, and overcast, but we had a record number of walkers for the long walk today as well as four dogs. All were well behaved, even the dogs. We took the black path and Little Lane, crossed the B4100 and carried on down Station Road, remarking on the stone wall collapses on each side. We turned down Millers Lane and could have walked through the ford as it was almost dry, but we took the route round it and crossed the footbridge back onto the lane. We stopped for everyone to catch their breath at the top of the lane. Next we turned right along wharf lane and then left across two fields and a copse to the back of Souldern Village. Then it was up to Nancy Bowles Wood and across to the Fritwell road junction, with still no sign of the Llamas grazing. back in Souldern we walked down past the church and through to the sewage works where there was some pumping activity in progress with a large truck and stretches of heavy plastic piping being arranged by workmen. We were soon on the Portway path and back at the pavilion for drinks and a chat after five and a half miles at 3.5mph.
Fifteen walkers arrived for the long walk today, including Sue McCouaig, a new walker for us, from Banbury. As the weather had been dry for some days we ventured down the fields to Lower Walton Grounds via the Black Path and the stone stile at the Dad’s Army hut. We continued through the grounds and across the fields towards Kings Sutton, taking the route up hill to the small, boggy copse at the top. From there we descended diagonally across the field in front of us, crossed into the next field and walked diagonally up to the top of the ridge where we paused for everyone to catch up and enjoy the view in both directions. The field had been harrowed and planted very recently so the path was not marked but we aimed for the appropriate tree and reached the next crossing successfully. Two more fields and a wet ditch later we reached the old stone pits at Charlton. We walked down through the village, up to Rainsborough Camp and back along the ridge to Green Lane. The usual cake and coffee were waiting for us at the pavilion after 5.7 miles at 3.25 mph.
In March, Alan Fretten returned to the Society to give a presentation entitled ‘So long and thanks for the fish’. Explaining that this title embraced a variety of photographic topics, Alan proceeded to introduce his audience to a spectrum of images. Starting with his travels in Mexico and Guatemala, the landscapes of Inca ruins and some spectacular waterfalls, he then took us to the Greek Island of Santorini and demonstrated the influence of light on building architecture, the use of monochrome to enhance the visual impact, and the unique relationship between sunset and water. An experienced athlete, Alan continued by showing a number of action photographs taken at various field sports events, including the 2012 London Olympics, and closed the first part of his presentation with a discussion on the use of exposure bracketing to capture images of rock band artists during live performances.
After the interval, Alan examined the art of studio photography. Emphasising his preference for natural light or floodlights, as opposed to the use of electronic flash, he showed a wide range of still-life and glamour images. Finally, Alan turned to the techniques he employed for street photography, showing a range of images taken in the Olympic Park and during his recent holidays in India. Overall, this was a most interesting presentation by an articulate and extremely competent photographer, that was much appreciated by his audience.
The next meeting of the Society is the AGM at 7.00pm on 1 April, followed by a members’ presentation entitled ‘My attempts at abstract photography’. On 15 April, there is a Skills Workshop on ‘Sensor sensitivity and white balance’. Both events start at 7.30pm, and will be held in the Cartwright Hotel, Aynho. Just come along and enjoy a very warm welcome.