Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Ancient & modern, massive & tiny!

The ancient Yew at Dunsfold

I went to have lunch and catch up with old friends over the weekend, which took me to Dunsfold in Surrey. After lunch we all went for a walk, which gave me the chance to familiarise myself with this rather hidden part of Surrey, which is as some of you might know, the most wooded county in England.

As we walked back into the village we passed the church of St Mary and All Saints. William Morris, the renowned artist, designer, writer and socialist, said of this building that it was, "The most beautiful country church in all England".

Dunsfold Church is a complete 13th Century building situated in an idyllic rural setting and is indeed very lovely. However, as I walked around the corner of the building on my way to the main entrance, my eyes fell on the most incredible sight – one you could almost describe as a vision!! There was one of the most enormous ancient Yew trees that I have ever seen.

Apparently, the girth of the tree has just been measured last month and is around 7.72 metres, measured at a height of 1 metre from the ground. This amazing tree is also reckoned to be around 1500 years old and seems in good health despite a completely hollow trunk which you can walk straight into! You cannot help but stand under its boughs and wonder at the sights, sounds and changes that this tree has witnessed.

In total contrast I walked in woods close to my house back in Hampshire yesterday and marvelled at the brand new, freshly emerging flowers that covered the woodland floor. I watched numerous Bee-flies nectaring on the flowers of wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca). 

This is an interesting insect, being a bee mimic - it resembles a small bumblebee, but is no such thing! The adult flies are striking and have a hairy body with long hairy legs and a characteristically long, slender tongue which they use for nectar retrieval whilst hovering, humming bird-like, beside a flower head. The larvae of this species parasitise beetle grubs, as well as the broods of solitary wasps and bees.

Watching and trying to photograph these fast moving creatures, made me also take a much closer look at the flowers of the miniature Strawberry plants that they were feeding on, noticing for the first time that the petals are heart shaped, which I had not spotted before.

Such a beautiful little flower when observed close up. So fresh and new, waiting to be pollinated by Bee flies in the warm spring sunshine, so that later in the year it can produce its tiny strawberry fruits, which taste so deliciously sweet. Such a brief life when compared to the massive, ancient Yew tree in Surrey.

Both species had a similar impact on me though – one of complete marvel at their beauty and place in this incredible world in which we live.    
A Bee fly nectaring on a little wild Strawberry flower

No comments:

Post a Comment