My better-half gifted me a gorgeous necklace for Valentines this year. Ever the romantic, he remembered me mentioning (his polite way of saying ‘waffleing on about’) my favourite butterflies were blues. Specifically, the rare Silver Studded Blues of the local lowland heath that emerge around my birthday each June. On warm sunny days late in June I can often be found crawling around the heath, or sitting enraptured by the tiny intricate and beautiful blue butterfly perched on a heather sprig in front of me.
It will be many weeks until those sunbaked days. Now, in the chilly grasp of February, it is hardly imaginable. But they will come.
So here is ‘one from the archives’… a look back at a blog written a few summers ago, inspired by the joy I find in diminutive heathland jewels.
Heaven is silver-studded
I have always thought that there is nothing quite the same as a summer afternoon on a lowland heath in the South Downs National Park; the warmth of the sand, the smell of the heather, the hum of bees.
The car radio crackles about heat waves and pollen counts; traffic is zooming past on the main road out of town, everybody in a rush. But change gear and turn off, switch off and step away…
Bracken, birch, bramble, bryony and briar rose, jostle for space around the edges of the car park, and between them, over their heads, is a glimpse of open space and blue skies. The blue shadowy line of the South Downs rolls comfortingly in the distance.
Listen to the rustle of birch leaves and the crunch of the pine-cone-carpet. Grasshoppers singing their zinging songs.
A hawker dragonfly zooms, patrolling over his dark peaty pools. An impressive green tiger beetle takes off in a metallic emerald blur of flight. The scrambling stems of the parasitic dodder plant, spreads as a red net through the heather.
A shimmer of silver, a flash of blue, do Fairies dance at the edges of your sight? Look closer, between the heather bells and quivering grass and you may spy a dainty winged butterfly of minute detail, striped antennae and furry body, delicate iridescent blue above, studded with silver and orange jewels below.
A sudden movement, a shadow or gust of wind and its gone, up and away, flitting over the short-cropped heather. As you watch it fly you see another emerge, and again another. The sun creeps out from behind a cloud, bathing all in warm golden light, and more butterflies appear almost from nowhere, a cloud of silver and blue that flitters and floats and dances all around.
So if you find yourself driving past a lowland heath on a sunny afternoon this summer, park up and leave the car, the world and its’ rushing and worries behind, and take a moment to sit in the short grass by a sandy path. Listen for the lark or pipit’s song, marvel at the agility of hunting dragonflies, watch the ants as they march in lines to and from their pine-needle castles, and let dancing blue butterflies transport you to a world of new perspectives.
Thank you darling, Happy Valentines Day x