Even though Cliff and I were weary after spending the whole day putting up new fencing along the boundary of a small addition to our garden (more about our 'wild wood' at another time) this evening while the rabbit casserole was cooking, we went on a pilgrimage to find the Pasqueflowers.
After a short walk we spotted some purple flowers nestling in the grass near the path along the top of the Dyke.
Pasqueflowers were first recorded growing on the Gog Magog Hills by John Ray, the son of a blacksmith and his wife – a herbalist, from Braintree in Essex; who studied and then lectured at Trinity College in Cambridge. While recovering from an illness he took long walks in the countryside around the town and was inspired to write his first book Catalogus plantarum circa Cantabrigian nascentium which was published in 1660. This small pocket book gave descriptions of 626 plants and their exact locations. This is the reason the Pasqueflower was selected as the County Flower of Cambridgeshire.
We sat on the steep grassy bank looking out over the farmland on one side and Newmaket Race-course on the other. Up close we could see just how beautiful the little purple flowers are - finely veined translucent petals; soft downy stalks and leaves; vivid yellow stamens. Shiny black pollen beetles scurried among the stamens.
According to legend, Pasqueflowers spring from the blood of Romans or Danes - their rarity and this story enhances their mystery. This myth seems believable because they like to grow on chalky ground with thin undisturbed soil, the few remaining sites are on ancient earthworks such as barrows and banks around hillforts, and on the Devil's Dyke - a thin strip of timeless wild-flower-jewelled turf.