The View from Here: poppies past and present

downloadThe same thing happened to me this June as apparently happens to many when it comes to buses.  Jude posted a photo so stunning that I immediately shared it with a dear friend with the entreaty that we must visit this place together next year.  But a year is a long time to wait, and – here’s where the buses come in – over the next little while it seemed that all my usual online Cornish haunts were filled with fields of poppies.  I had never heard about the poppies at West Pentire in previous years; now they were everywhere.  I had to see for myself.

I considered the weather: Tuesday seemed ideal.  It was a little cloudy but undaunted we set off with expectations high.  By the time we arrived it was not only heavily overcast but misty.  There would be no shining skies or sparkling seas as backdrops to our poppy-filled vistas.

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I confess to flutterings of disappointment at the sight of the first meadow.  There were poppies yes, but sparse and tired.  Mostly green with sprinklings of dusty red.  We walked on.

One can either rail against what is or adjust to it: remain open and seek out the pleasures of the unexpected.  Devoid of sun, in a light shadowy and unsure, the meadows of West Pentire were an experience quite different from that I had anticipated and no less special for that.

We did find poppies.  We also found marigolds.  Corn marigolds in abundance.  A myriad bright daisies, sunflower yellow with heads held up towards the grey skies.

 

The meadows were not a mass of red with yellow accents but fields of gold with scarlet buttons.  A Monet tapestry.  I crouched at flower height for some minutes, immersed not only in the colours before me but surrounded by the thrum of insects.  And overhead the pewter skies were filled with the rippling song of soaring skylarks.

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The meadows are beautiful.  They offer succour not only to insect and animal life but also to human souls.  As expected, we were not alone in the meadows and everyone seemed as enthralled as we were.  There’s a peace which exudes from these fields that perhaps is felt universally.  Perhaps we can sense those days before our own lifetimes, days when meadows such as these were part of daily lives.

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Perhaps we gaze today and recall what once was: what we are in danger of losing for ever but what might again be, with change and care.  Perhaps also, as we breathe among the poppies we think of other fields, fields on forgeign shores.  Perhaps we think of what was lost and what was gained, at an unfathomable cost.   Of those who breathe no more.  Red is the colour of blood but yellow is the colour of hope.  And for me today, in this difuse indifferent light, hope blazed.

 

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The walk I had chosen took us beyond the poppy fields and provided additional pleasures which merit a post of their own.  But as we headed back to the car, the air dense and dark with humidity, I took some final photos.  There were no corn marigolds here.  The poppies appeared to float above the field, numinous and eternal.  Ghostly sentinels.  Reminders.  Beacons.

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2/7/19 Edit: roadside verges in UK worth a read

56 thoughts on “The View from Here: poppies past and present”

  1. I love that picture with the tall grasses standing high. Cyberspouse and his photography friend went out hunting Dorset for poppy fields, including one featured in a broadsheet newspaper and when they arrived it was crowded with photographers!

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    1. Yes, I love that one too, Janet. As for photographers, there were plenty around while we were busy snapping but everyone took their turn at the best spots. Very civilised and surpringly, not intrusive. I hope Cyberspouse and friend got their shots eventually!

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  2. Glorious Sandra. We never see corn marigolds around here. No gold, just the harsh yellow of oilseed rape,cultivated to the nth degree, so no chance of stray poppies there. But it has been a good year for poppies on verges and in isolated patches; no less lovely for their single purity of colour. xxx

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    1. There’s a rape field that we pass regularly here, Pat; it always makes me think of Mixbury. I do recall snapping the odd poppy when I took the path that the farmer left across the rape field but as you say, nothing on the scale of a true poppy field. And the corn marigolds were a revelation! 🙂 xx

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  3. What an experience to see the flowers on this scale. Most of the wild flowers I see are on road verges, serving as reminder of what once was. Not only should we protect what’s already left but encourage people to re wild more spaces so that sights like this can become more abundant and wildlife can flourish.

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  4. Wonderful photos and words Sandra. I am glad you got to see them, they really are quite a sight. I was quite taken by the central verge on the A390 going into Truro – also planted with red poppies (and some rapeseed).

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    1. They certainly are a sight worth seeing, Jude. There are plans to sow wild flowers on the central verge of the A38 too. Maybe next summer I’ll be enjoying those as I sweep back and forth between Cornwall and Kent!

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  5. How lovely! I’ve always loved wildflowers more than formal gardens but as you hint in your post, this kind of meadow is a rare treasure these days – I hope we can indeed find our way back to giving nature more space to do her own thing.

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    1. It is a treasure, FF, perhaps one that we can replicate quite easily with a little effort. (Although our attempts to sow wild flowers have been less than successful since we got here. We’ll keep trying!)

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  6. You have the heart of a poet, but wait, that’s not all! The entire post transcends to a medium beyond lyricism and poetry to a state where there is overwhelming beauty, sadness for what has been lost and eternal hope. The photographs ooze a whiff of the aura of being there.

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  7. This is a glorious post. The poppies have been spectacular this year, haven’t they, though we rarely see meadows quite so richly populated with such a variety of flowers as you have. Beautifully written as usual.

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    1. It’s been a great year for poppies, as it was for bluebells. Less so for foxgloves, it seems, and it wasn’t great for snowdrops. Nature likes to keep us on our toes!

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    1. You’ll have to entice him here in June, Maria! Plus there are some gorgeous beaches within walking distance of the poppy fields and a rather nice pub! What more could he want! 😉

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  8. I too love the photo with the tall grasses. The cloudy weather actually enhances the atmospheric mood in picture and serves as a nice contrast to the bright colours of the flowers. To me the poppy symbolizes hope and perseverance despite of everything and somehow the picture captures that perfectly.

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  9. Poppies carry a heavy burden of symbolism, don’t they? Your words evoke that but also, with the photos, allow the flowers to be, simply, beautiful. On one of our trips to Cornwall, I saw such a field of poppies and I’ve never forgotten it. It made me think of that scene in the Wizard of Oz!

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    1. Oh yes, the Wizard of Oz poppies! Thankfully, I didn’t doze off! I think, had the weather been better, I would have simply seen the flowers in their multitudes and celebrated their brilliance and simplicity. I’m rather pleased that the poor light bought forth other thoughts. Next time, I’ll try harder to get a sunny day!

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    1. There is something special about the traditional red poppies, isn’t there. We have none in the garden so I’m envious of your sprinkling, Jane 🙂

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  10. Such beauty needs to be cared for. I think universally we need to take better care and be more respectful of mother nature, as you say, to think of “what we are in danger of losing for ever but what might again be, with change and care.” Beautiful photos 🙂
    Caz xx

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    1. There are certainly moves in the right direction, Andrea and like you, I love to see the flowers along our roads. It does feel like I’m seeing more such displays this year on the long drive between Cornwall and Kent – a regular trek at the moment. Fingers crossed that trend will continue 🙂

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  11. I first saw these fields over 20 years ago when I moved to Cornwall: they’re breathtaking, as you say. We went again a couple of weeks ago when the flowers were just peaking, and looked beautiful. We’re so lucky to live in such a place. I also loved the field next to the poppies; don’t what it was planted with – bit botanically ignorant – looked like wheaty grasses, but waving in the breeze and resembling the ocean. As Melville says in Moby-Dick: pastoral waves. Not so colourful, but still uplifting. Didn’t know the name of all those golden flowers, so thanks for identifying them.

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    1. We are indeed very lucky, Simon 🙂 The wheaty grasses you mention are barley. Each year, half of each field is ploughed and left fallow for the wild flowers to germinate. The other half is planted with barley to provide food and cover for the skylarks (of which there were many), corn buntings and brown hares. The management seems to require so little effort I wonder why it can’t be done elsewhere too. But I suspect it’s rather more difficult to achieve than this seemingly effortless description suggests.

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      1. Thanks for clarifying, Sandra. Yes, I saw and heard some skylarks while there. Sadly they’re declining rapidly in numbers as farming methods become ever more nature-unfriendly. Btw, I went to Normandy last week and spent a morning at Monet’s garden in Giverny – an object lesson in horticulture, with its own wild poppy-strewn meadow – and heard a cuckoo. First time in years – in Cornwall it must have been many years ago.

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        1. How lovely, especially at this time of year. One day I shall get there 🙂 I’ve never heard a cuckoo in Cornwall, and only once in our previous home in Oxfordshire. A common sound in my Kentish childhood. I’ve also not heard a yellowhammer here this year – and swallow number remain low *sigh*

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