Country diary: copious apple blossom is at its best, but short-lived

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May rain veils the greening mound of Sentry Hill wood and the cattle grazing on the summit of Viverdon Down, as loquacious birdsong and progress to summer growth are restored.

This year’s copious apple blossom is at its best, but short-lived – after a few days of pink and white perfection, the Tommy Knight’s petals blow off laden twiggy branches, succeeded by profuse and even larger blooms on banana pippin, manaccan primrose/the rattler (with its bonus of established mistletoe) and Hocking’s green, once a popular apple grown in local farm orchards. The pink buds on the long keeper coexist with last year’s dangling rotten apples, and fruit sets sparsely on the earlier flowering pears and cherries, whose peak of blossom coincided with April’s withering cold and dearth of pollinators.

Bluebells on Summers Lane, Tamar valley.

Welcome rain and a continuation of cool temperatures prolong the diaphanous brilliance of fresh green beech leaves, distinctive against the varied colours of oaks and thin crowns of ash. Landmark clumps of beech planted by the Snell family (landowners in the 19th century), stand firm in south-westerly gales. On the parish’s northern edge, leaning beeches overhang the abandoned quarry where stone was once excavated to build the nearby engine houses for Wheal Langford and East Cornwall silver mine (both now converted into residences). The adjacent Fullaford Road – running from former mining country around Harrowbarrow to Callington – is a luminous avenue, arched over by beeches spread from outgrown hedgerows.

Near to home, Summers Lane accesses fields of hard-grazed sheep pastures, taped-off paddocks for horses at livery and a meagre crop of spring barley, contrasting with lush vegetation on the lane side. There, rabbit-eroded earth is covered in new leaves sprouting from winter-flailed stumps and branches, tall fronds of male and scaly male ferns, garlic mustard and vibrant bluebells sprinkled with stitchwort and campion.

Down the hill, in the colder shade of Nanie Rowe’s wood, blackcaps chortle in the regenerating thickets, bluebells grow spindly and pale, spikes of hard fern remain tightly curled, and unfurled lady ferns have been singed by late valley frosts.

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