Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

A walk along the boring bit

The last visitors to my studio last Sunday evening were a couple from a nearby village, I remembered them visiting last year – keen walkers, we swapped notes about the local Roman Road footpath. This year they asked if I had sketched the Pasque Flower from a wild plant, I hadn't - it was a plant in my own garden. The Pasque Flower or Wild Anemone is the County Flower of Cambridgeshire but I have never found it growing wild although I know it grows on The Devil's Dyke, I asked if they knew where it grew – they did!

We often walk along The Devil's Dyke – in winter the deep ditches are eerie and mysterious, on summer evenings the views across the fields towards a spectacular sunset are wonderful. We know the western end well, deep open ditches managed by grazing traditional breeds of sheep, eventually plunge down into the flat fen (originally this is where the defensive banks met the impassable fen wetlands). We also regularly walk the eastern end which is in places densely wooded and gives a taste of the ancient impenetrable forests to the east of the Saxon's frontier ditch 1400 years ago. The 'bit in the middle' has always looked boring when we study the Ordnance Survey map, with a main road at either end, a railway line bisecting it and a golf course to the north we dubbed it "the boring bit" and have never walked along it.

Now I know that "the boring bit" is where all the rare wildflowers grow! I'll have to wait until next Easter to search for wild Pasque Flowers, but I couldn't wait to see what other treasures were growing there. Yesterday evening after an early supper we put on our walking boots and drove to a lay-by at a point where our route to Newmarket crosses the dyke. Instead of crossing the road and walking east, this time we headed west towards the railway tracks. Dozens of bunnies skipped and scattered into their burrows under the railways banks, we cautiously stepped down onto the crossing and walked over the tracks – these unmarked footpath crossing places always make me slightly nervous, how fast are the trains going to be traveling if they appear as we're crossing?

We climbed up onto the dyke and in front was a patchwork of yellow Rock Roses, Helianthemum nummularium and deep pink Wild Thyme, Thymus polytrichus with the white chalk pathway leading onwards along the dyke. Deep steep ditches fell away on either side, the left side was the deepest, plunging into a ditch dense with Elder bushes, brambles and nettles. A Fallow doe was bounding through the wheat in the field beyond, we stood and watched as she crossed the field into the wooded field boundary.

Here are just some of the beautiful flowers I had time to photograph. There were many, many more – but Cliff reminded me that we were supposed to be going for a brisk evening walk and not crawling round looking at flowers!

Bloody Cranesbill, Geranium sanguineum
among white Hedge Bedstraw and yellow Lady's Bedstraw,
Galium mollugo and Galium verum

Dropwort, Filipendula vulgaris

Sainfoin, Onobrychis viciifolia

Musk or Nodding Thistle, Cardus nutans
the yellow flowers in the background are Wild Parsnip, Pastinaca sativa

Definitely NOT the boring bit!


  1. I was with you every step of the way! Sounds wonderful. Do you ever go to the Dyke's End at Reach? Great pub. We sometimes go there for lunch when visiting offspring.

  2. I felt like I was enjoying that walk too! Lovely!

  3. Gorgeous! Did you know one end of the Devil's Dyke begins just across the green from my house! We have seen posters pinned to the gates advertising a spring walk to go and view the pasque flowers. To my annoyance I've missed it every year. We could meet up and see it in 2009 perhaps.

  4. Wonderful! The Devils Dyke has been on our 'weekend to-do' list ever since we bought a car in February. So far we haven't made it beyond the pub at Reach, but your post has definitely inspired me to try harder!

  5. I belong to the local Natural History Society and we often find the boring or even downright scruffy bits are the best for botany. A favourite of mine is a triangle of land in between railway lines. Hardly anyone bothers with it but the plants are beautiful, all left to themselves.

    I don't know the area you live in (shame!) but you paint a wonderful word picture.

  6. Threadspider - we've heard good reports about the food at The Dyke's End, so will have to try it!

    Thanks Gina

    Silverpebble - you're lucky to live so close to a special historic route.

    Organic Viking - an after lunch walk next time!!!

    Veg Heaven - I too could spend happy hours finding plants!



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