Ramblings from Finemere Wood

Devil's-bit scabious by Charlotte Karmali

With regular volunteer work parties cancelled for the time being, but restrictions easing, Charlotte Karmali, volunteer warden at Finemere Wood, tells of being able to return to her haven.

And finally, after six months of exile from the wood, the Finemere volunteers are back, albeit in small handfuls at a time.

Covid-19 procedures are firmly in place to ensure everyone’s safety, and we are adapting to the rules of no sharing, no hugging, and keeping away from each other at all times, despite such measures going against our natural inclination. I am encouraged that all are keen to return, despite a ban upon cake provision. 

Scything, brush-cutting, and raking of grassy places has been the main agenda over recent weeks. At first in groups of six, and now in groups of eight, it is a joy to hear the happy babble of woodland workers once again. Energised by their period of absence, they work harder and faster than ever before.

Devil's-bit scabious

Devil's-bit scabious by Charlotte Karmali

Devil’s-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis), exquisite with its round dense head of violet-blue flowers, can be seen in large patches in parts of the wood. Year on year, these areas grow in size and number. This year, nature will be given a helping hand: seeds will be collected and scattered upon targeted sites.

Succusia pratensis is a late flowering plant, blooming when other wild flowers are setting seed and can be enjoyed from July through to October. It is rich in nectar and pollen and thus an important food source for moths, butterflies, and bees at a time of scarcity. A slow-growing plant that takes several years to reach maturity, it struggles to survive on intensively farmed land.

The name Devil’s-bit scabious is derived from "scabies", one of a number of afflictions this plant was said to cure. Its short roots end abruptly which, according to folklore, is because the devil, angered by these healing properties, tried to destroy them by biting the roots off. 

Volunteers

Volunteers at Finemere Wood by Charlotte Karmali

The volunteers, reunited with their machines and sharp tools, sweat, and toil under the golden autumnal sun. They scythe and rake, avoiding Succinsa pratensis, to give it that little extra time to complete its natural cycle.

All is well in the wood, the fragility and uncertainty of present times pushed aside for a while, enabling brief but welcome respite from a crazy world.