Aldo Leopold was a great visionary writer who realised before most people that in conserving wild nature we save ourselves…
“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, “What good is it?” If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
I’ve been away working again this week visiting yet more beautiful gardens and grasslands, and the absolute highlight of the trip was seeing this incredible hay meadow that had more orchids in it than I’ve ever seen in my life before.
In just this one field there are over 100,000 orchids of 5 different species.
The meadow was created by the National Trust in response to a request from The Prince of Wales to create a wildflower meadow in every county in Britain to celebrate the anniversary of the Queens coronation.
It was also a campaign to try to reclaim the glorious hay meadows that were once common in Britain, 98% of which we have lost to intensive agriculture since 1945, along with all of the wildlife that they supported such as wild flowers, butterflies, moths, bees and ground nesting birds such as meadow pipits and skylarks – all gone from our silent fields because of fertilisers, modern grass mixes, higher yields and the switch from hay making to silage.
Undoubtedly the star of the botanical show in this restored hay meadow was the rare and beautiful butterfly orchid. This is the first one I’ve ever seen….
I just hope that we can restore more of these once common traditional hay meadows to our countryside, so that the wildlife that we are in danger of losing forever can be around for our children to see and for future generations.
So this week I’ve been in North Wales doing some more work on my grasslands project for the National Trust, and I visited Bodnant Gardens which apparently are world famous, although I hadn’t heard of them and you probably haven’t either, which is a shame because they are absolutely magnificent! Because I wasn’t being a tourist (I was working!), I didn’t take lots of photos of all the lovely herbaceous borders and lawns and the mansion house, so I can’t show you those. I did, however, have to take photos of the amazing laburnum tunnel and the magnificent old trees that dominate and seem to exist in a different dimension and time to you and I. Anyway have a look first at the delightful laburnum tunnel, hand crafted by the very gifted National Trust gardeners who were all really nice to me and showed me around…..
And now feast your eyes on these humungous trees…..
Here’s an idea of the house and lawns (which I secretly love and would like to play tennis on given half a chance!)…
I can also report that the cream teas served were absolutely divine. It was a tough job but someone had to do it 🙂
On my way to the beach yesterday for a leisurely swim (I know!) I came across lots of lovely patches of the oxeye daisy, our largest native member of the daisy family in the UK. It is a perennial herb with large flowers and also has the vernacular names common daisy, dog daisy, moon daisy and margarite.
It is fairly common in meadows and roadside verges but always in conditions of moderate to low fertility, and where it occurs in abundance it transforms the sight of meadows and grassy banks in summer with carpets of white and gold.
Because the oxeye daisy is limited in its capacity for vegetative spread it relies heavily on seed regeneration in open swards where other potentially dominant species are restricted by low soil fertility. This is why it is a common plant of some of our traditional hay meadows, as well as being abundant on waste ground, railway embankments and roadside verges and, in this case, sea cliffs.
The open flower heads attract a large range of pollinating insects, particularly bees, butterflies and hoverflies.
In the past, an extract from the plant was used as a herbal remedy to cure diseases of the liver and the chest.
On my 4th album “Heading West” I wanted to interpret some of the North American landscapes that I had seen and felt in the music that I composed. But more than that I wanted some of the history of those landscapes to be heard in the music, and particularly in the instrumentation that I used.
This tune is about the prairies. I obviously wanted to depict wide open spaces, but I also wanted the warmth and intimacy of the piano and double bass to convey some of the folk traditions of times past. It’s not always a comfortable experience to interpret places that you are not completely familiar with, there’s a real danger of creating a cliche, as I have heard many times when the British culture or landscape is interpreted musically by others.
Anyway I hope that you like this one and can see where I’m coming from 🙂