Painted lady

A butterfly lands on the gravel path in Farningham wood and folds its wings; it is unrecognisable. Neither a wall brown nor a grayling both of which nearly always fold up, just a perplexing something in between; the colours are subtle and beautiful and it turns out to be a painted lady doing what it normally does not do, which is to sunbathe with wings spread. It disappears from the gravel track over a stack of coppiced sweet chestnut. On the sunlit borders of the field of sheep, there are equally elusive common blues and a brown argus. The Deptford pinks are entirely absent on the woodland edge, normally rising out of the flowering wood sage and waves of common bent; nothing it seems is hanging around today. The nettle-leaved bellflowers however, are out and proud, standing tall above the straggling, tufted vetch. Flowering heather carpets the woodland glade and the rowan trees are laden with clusters of red berries. This is the dead of August and no birds are singing now, just a distant yaffle from a green woodpecker; it is a quiet evening of light and colour, perfect apart from the dull dead noise of vehicles from the enveloping motorways.

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