The barley field

The back garden runs round a small section of a large field of barley. The crop this year looks in perfect condition after the wet spring and hot dry summer. The cow parsley has come and gone and now hemlock, poppies and common mallow with tussocks of false oat-grass provide a backdrop to the vegetable beds edged with clumps of pink-flowering hemp nettle and stinging nettle.

On a stormy evening, the sunlight catches the colours; the poppies flower for just a few days then the petals drop and the highlights disappear.

Bees, wasps, ladybirds and butterflies work the plants. Two small tortoiseshells rest on the worn paths and railway sleepers and are always sparring.

House sparrows fly over the yellowing crop to perch then drop in and feed on the endless supply of fat seeds. A swallow is often low over the field; pairs of dunnock, whitethroat and lesser whitethroat sing from the hedgerow and a corn bunting jangles just up the hill. A sparrowhawk hunts the starling flock over the road, coming in low out of the sun. The local pair of magpies have neither found the goldfinch nest in the corkscrew willow nor the robins deep in the ivy on the bird cherry.

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