Country diary: limestone is abundant with nature's gifts

Bosherston, Pembrokeshire: Its spring and early summer flowers in their profusion are a magnet for devotees of nature in Wales

An early summer morning, sparrows clamorous among the ivy, in the sunlit garden of Ye Olde Worlde Cafe in Bosherston is one small version of heaven, even though its long-term proprietor, Mrs Weston, immaculately made-up and coiffured, endlessly inquisitive, has passed on, doubtless to serve her good tea in the latter place. I still come here each year, in pilgrimage, to a region where I’ve spent so much time over more than 50 years. At first it was for the climbing on gothically sculpted limestone sea cliffs – a thrilling adventure playground of stacks, arches, caves and buttresses. But, as Wordsworth wrote, “That time is past, / And all its aching joys are now no more, / And all its dizzy raptures.”

Limestone has other gifts. Its spring and early summer flowers in their variety and profusion are a magnet for devotees of nature in Wales. In few places is that truth more manifest than in the woods and grassy slopes around lily ponds that stretch from below Bosherston to the fine, headland-enclosed bay of Broad Haven.

The headland-enclosed bay of Broad Haven
The headland-enclosed bay of Broad Haven. Photograph: Jim Perrin

I walked down a sunken way from the village, the garlic scent of ramsons mingling with that of May blossom already fading from its first brilliant white and hinting at the putrid trimethylamine odour that explains its Welsh name of “blodau marw mam” (mother’s death flowers).

Purple orchids speared up through last year’s leaf litter
Purple orchids speared up through last year’s leaf litter. Photograph: Jim Perrin

The wind was piling algal rafts topped with small white flowers against the arched bridge across the ponds. A swan sailed across dappled water rosetted with maroon leaves of water lilies. I turned seawards, the banks dense with coruscated stars of ramson, the woodland underbrush still pulsing with bluebells, woven with the gentler blue of dog violets, their fragrances blending deliciously. Purple orchids speared up through last year’s leaf litter. The grassy slopes beyond the lake’s end were carpeted with vernal squills, clumps of cowslip clustering among them.

I rocked back on my heels to survey the promontories that were once my focus. Orange scars of winter rock fall glared out where former climbs had been. Memory holds exquisite detail of moves and emotions; but the violets have outlasted them, and the waves surge in past the bay’s precarious stack.

Contributor

Jim Perrin

The GuardianTramp

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