The first of the cereal crops are now beginning to be brought in around us. Before long, the vast combine harvesters will be humming through the day and night. The barley is almost ready, and some fields are already cut to stubble and dotted with huge round bales. It is Lammastide – the festival when our ancestors celebrated the first loaf of the new harvest.
Harvest is reflected here at the natural burial ground and nature reserve: the high point of summer has now passed. Over the past three weeks, we have been topping the grasses in new woodland burial areas where they were tall and thick, but most grasses have now dropped their seed and are naturally beginning to die back. The same is true of the midsummer flowering plants, the oxeye daisies, vetches and trefoils, all of which are mostly gone to seed. Later flowers, the knapweeds, betony, meadow vetchling and field scabious are still in flower, drawing in sunshine and rain amidst the browning meadow. There are pockets of wild basil, lady’s bedstraw and the last of the roses are blooming. In the newly developing meadow, the white and pink yarrow is vitalised with splashes of the last annuals – blue cornflowers, bright yellow corn marigolds and scarlet poppies.
In the growing woodland, the guelder rose is starting to fruit, with rich deep orange berries. Provoked too by the lack of rain over the last 15 months, the first leaves of the viburnums, cherries and birches are beginning to turn. On wet days, with heavy cloud, we can almost begin to feel autumn coming. But not yet! We aim not to cut the meadow for another month, allowing all the wildflowers to go to seed, by which time it will look wonderfully tatty!
As July slips into August, it is a softer, slower time than the hectic growth of high summer, yet it can also be heavy and chaotic in places. These are days when perhaps we must find extra patience with ourselves, and with others. It’s a time to pause, watch the butterflies, and just let life be a little messy.