Outlook 24
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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Nature Notes
Lime blossom, the smell hanging in the air from the four trees close to the house, drifts indoors. It cleanses, as it fills each room. There is nothing, no bloom – save perhaps the honeysuckle – that compares. The scent is a suggestion, a subtle offering, no more than a whiff, a smell difficult to describe, but redolent of early days when every summer was long and warm. These were the days of horse-drawn wagons and sweet-smelling hay, when everything moved slower and our horizons were narrower, and the world around us was just out of sight. This aroma, suggestive and gentle, conjures up images and events long gone and not to return. But the remembrance of good days and happy people is contained therein, opening a faded album, with each inhalation. The Caucasus Mountains, and a sojourn there nearly twenty years ago, come into focus. The women of the village, with the children, guide us through the foothills. At lunch-time, bread and tomatoes, raw onions, are produced from capacious bags of sacking; a brew is made using mountain stream water. We are given lime blossom tea, the blossom picked from the overhead tree. How refreshing; and how grateful was I for this ambrosian offering, and for the warmth of friendship and innocent fun. The presence of lime blossom reminds me of a visit to Hungary, where hives of bees are loaded on to lorries and driven to and from linden areas, to maximise the honey potential. Visits to stately homes, where honey-coloured lime-wood mantelpieces, carved by the master, Gibbons, are there for our delight and for posterity; they too are remembered as I inhale the fragrance in the breeze. I recall visitors to our own limes. The rare and attractive lime hawk moth, its caterpillars nightly feeding on the underside of the leaves; and also the maniacal call of the Yaffle – the green woodpecker – infrequent, but welcome. Perhaps, in the late Autumn, when gathering the rain-sodden, heart-shaped lime leaves, they in their turn will remind me of the ethereal scent of lime blossom. The annual, ritual and collective descent of leaves from our four trees presents me with several long days of blowing and sweeping, raking and carting of countless cordate leaves, brown and yellow and faded green. But this Herculean task – made more so by drivers, unaware, speeding by – like all things, will not last. As with winter, it will pass. And then the welcome cycle of buds, leaves and blossom will begin again. Michael Stagg Common Lime: Photo Stefan Hauser/Alamy