A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Dogging It In Duke's Wood

Duke's Wood, near Eakring, Notts, was the site of the UK's first oilfield. Thanks to the expertise of American oilmen, by the start of WWII 170 'nodding donkeys' were pumping 64 barrels of oil a day, and 1200 people were employed here. In 1989 British Petroleum donated the land to the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. Now it's a delightful area of broadleaf woodland, and only the odd ghost from the past remains (see pic below of a preserved 'nodding donkey').

Yesterday I went for an idling walk in this wood. The sun shone, the sky billowed with cotton wool cumulus clouds, and spring flowers studded in profusion the dappled woodland floor and the edges of the woodland brakes and rides. The flowers of red campion and stitchwort were just opening - stitchwort so-called because herbalists used to prescribe it for 'stitch' and other pains in the side. Bluebells rubbed stalks with celandines - a classic blue-and-yellow spring woodland combination. Cowslips dotted the open grassy glades, and bird's-eye speedwell lined the paths and tracks - named 'speedwell' because it was known to heal wounds effectively and aid a speedy recovery.

The golden flowers of primrose and yellow archangel lit up various shady corners ('archangel' after the Archangel Michael, guardian against evil spirits). I also found patches of wood anemones, some of my favourite springtime flowers, their delicate heads - coloured off-white with a tinge of pink and lilac - drooping in the shade. They're also known as windflowers, reputedly because the flowers won't open till the wind blows. Their fragile appearance is deceptive, as they can actually withstand the wind rather well.

Common dog violets grew shyly in the shadow of oak and ash, hazel and birch. The dogwood shrub is also found here - the epithet 'dog' meaning 'inferior' in this old usage: the odourless dog violet is supposedly inferior to the scented sweet violet, and the dogwood a producer only of bitter, inedible berries; dog rose the 'underdog' of the cultivated garden rose, and dog's mercury second cousin to annual mercury, which was once considered a useful folk medicine. The leaves of dog's mercury carpeted vast swathes of Duke's Wood; the flowers had not yet emerged. Myself, I like the 'doggy' plants. I don't think they're inferior at all!


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Well, that's pretty doggone interesting plant lore! And a doggone pretty woods and walk…with some flowers and plants mentioned familiar, others not.

I know those "nodding donkey" pumps, too. You see them in the hill country and elsewhere. I've also heard them called "peckerwood wells" and "bobbers" because they "bob" up and down.

Anonymous said...

first stop here, a pleasure. even the prose has the sense its been walked. kjm

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for visiting, kjm, you're always welcome.

If the prose seems 'walked', I take that as a compliment. Thanks! With reference to my recent posts, I'm working on getting it 'danced' next...

jay said...

I loved this one! I do love walking in broadleaved woodland and plan a trip to Dole Woods (a small patch of preserved woodland near here) to see the bluebells. It's loaded with them and quite a sight in spring.

There was a wood near where I lived as a teen and I used to make sure I went there in the spring to see the wood anemones. And I've just finished risking my healing shoulder to dig up primroses, violets and yellow archangel from my lawn before the gardeners come to relay it. The bluebells are far too deep, so I just hope they survive the process.