High summer’s abundance brings memories of a Devon childhood


We arrive tired around midnight. The meadow is fantastical in the headlights. Six weeks of high summer growth and the ragged post-lawn we left is almost otherworldly. We dump our bags by the car and explore by phone torch. Tall grasses and other seeding heads loom alarmingly.

The early morning brings perspective and small moths moving through flowers. Banks of bird’s foot trefoil. Thick carpets of clovers are alive with bees of every size. The plot thrums.

There are large beds of yarrow in dusky creams and pinks, almost as though sown. Too many species I am unsure about for my Collins Wild Flowers of Britain and Europe, I wander round with phone apps: Seek by iNaturalist, and PlantNet.

The names come thick and fast, conjuring up magical memories of flower fairies, illustrated books from childhood – red campion, goldenrod, maiden pink, blessed herb, baby’s breath, viper’s grass, mullein pink.

There is northern hawk’s beard, bristly hawkbit, hawkweed, hoary plantain. So many new-old names. The ox-eye daisies are fast going to seed. We will leave them. Though Henri has concerns about ‘untidiness’, she is bravely fighting her anxiety. I, on the other handhowever, am exultant.

Again Denmark echoes Devon, or at least the deep country Devon I knew from childhood. Fertile ground for a young boy’s overactive imagination.

Butterflies are abundant. Tortoiseshell, painted lady, meadow brown and orange tip all flutter and dance in numbers. The hedges have closed in, the oak has recovered. The cherry trees are festooned with scarlet fruit, more than ever before. Just waiting to fully ripen in time for the bird migrations.

The sand martins and swifts are close to leaving, buzzing low over the colouring wheat fields. I’ll miss them madly, though it is the beachside peewit – lapwing – I will most yearn for. Winter species will arrive soon enough to get excited about. We’ll be back by then. The grass meadow will wait.