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Catching the Spring dawn…

Catching the Spring dawn…

This morning was one of those special days in the year when the whole valley between Bleak Down and Billingham (wonderfully named The Wilderness) was filled with a thick mist.

Emerging through the mist stood the higher clumps of trees and farm buildings like islands in a sea of grey candy floss. Farther over, the top of Blackgang had a quiff of mist spilling over from the sea.

A pair of buzzards stood on fence posts either side of the road, stymied, unable to hunt, until the sun burned the fog clear. Buzzards are remarkable when encountered close up, usually they are seen as broad silhouettes spinning ever higher on the rising warm air at this time of day.

Sinking into the fog line at Appleford then winding to Whitwell the drifting belts of fog dispersed as the microclimate of the Undercliff opened up beneath me, its climax vegetation alien to the rest of the Island.

The roadside now was sided with the newly open corduroy fingers from Horse Chestnut. The sight is a wonder of nature.  En masse, thousands are throwing a dappled shadow onto the lanes of St Lawrence, each having emerged from a sticky bud. They reminded me of cormorants drying their wings, albeit in vivid green rather than murderous black.

A little known fact is that these emerging chestnut leaves are insectivorous, they are coated in a microscopic layer of the very digestive enzyme found in the sticky traps of the Sundew plant. Whilst not as dramatic as the Venus Flytrap, in a very subtle trick the chestnut is digesting away at microscopic protein, having a snack before the soil based feeds of spring.

The Chestnuts of the Undercliff are amongst the largest on the Island. In no time the candelabras of flower will be open, white all over until pollination when they blush pink. Further back from the road is a remarkable tree with one half red flowers, the other white; a genetic party trick or cunning grafting?

I will have to investigate.