June, the sixth month, with the Summer Solstice on the 21st, is the month of long days of bright sunlight, imparting strong vibrant colours from the landscape and the brightness of summer clothes.
‘Flaming’ June sees numerous blooms in the Park and wider countryside. Around the small lake the large blooms of yellow flag irises line the banks, and clumps of nettles are now showing white flowers, providing nectar for many insects. On agricultural land around the Park, crops push up rapidly.
In the hedgerows creamy white umbels of elderflower stand out at a distance, joined by smaller creamy white petals of dogwood, produced in clusters. After pollination by insects, the flowers develop into small black berries sometimes called ‘dogberries’.or ‘snake berries’. In the evenings, whilst the scent of honeysuckle drifts from our woodlands, bats flit and twist in their timeless air war with insects. Dog roses of delicate pale pink appear as their gaudy cousins in our gardens also flower. Hogweed and hedge parsley slow in their rapid growth and put out white blooms in the pattern of all umbelifers.
In Lydiard’s Walled Garden the growth is now lush and full of colour. Foxgloves and peonies are at their best and the cardoons demonstrate their ability to rapidly grow into large spectacular plants. Sheltered from strong breezes and noises moderated by the four walls, this restored Georgian garden is a great place to sit and relax away from the frenetic world.
House martins, swifts and swallows are all enjoying the glut of insect life, after an intercontinental journey to partake of this feast. When weather conditions dictate, these birds feed low down near the surface of our lakes, demonstrating their amazing acrobatic skills. A pleasure to watch in the Park.
Also on the wing on sunny days are the beautiful butterflies seen in summer. With the sun out a good deal in June, look out for tortoiseshells, red admirals, peacocks and painted ladies. When the sun is out the flowers produce nectar, which is the sole sustenance of these colourful insects.
And finally, still on the wing, but dealing with the largest member of the waterfowl family, the mute swan. Lydiard Park’s own swan pair, who I like to think of as the Viscount and Viscountess, who have been with us since 2009, prepared to raise a family this season as normal. I first spotted the new brood of five cygnets on the large lake on Tuesday 2nd May. Although I was told that the previous day there were seven.
However, over a couple of weeks the number of cygnets went down, one by one, until none were left. Wardens were perturbed, as this had not happened before. This concern was echoed by the visiting public. We suggest the cygnets were predated by herring gulls or a fox, although this had not been witnessed. Then adding to our worry, only one swan was to be seen, with many visitors asking what had happened. It turned out it was the female (pen) missing.
But I am pleased to give the good news. On Sunday June 18th Wardens discovered the pen sitting on a new nest on the north side of the island in the small lake. She is sitting on an unknown number of eggs. This is great news. And when the baby cygnets hatch, Wardens will have to do all possible to protect this second brood.
Mark Eborn, Lydiard Park Warden