May 01, 2011


Really, already?!

April disappeared in a warm haze of delightful sunshine, holidays and chocolate, and nary the whole month a single drop of rain in my garden. Gulp. It is like dust out there, and I fear for seedlings and young plants. But the hammock has never been up so early and we are planning to buy a bell tent.

The Blackthorn has shattered its blooms, and made way for the Hawthorn, or May, in full bloom today for the 1st of May.

It has actually been flowering away in the hedgerows for a couple of weeks, brought on by the constant sunshine, and some blooms are already beginning to fade, burnishing to a lovely rosy hue as they do so.

The Latin name for Hawthorn is Crataegus monogyna, but it has become known by many vernacular names, May, Whitethorn, Thornbush, Quick-Thorn, even Mother-die! It is best known as May, thought to be a 16th century name, presumably called so because of the white flowers that reliably come out in May. The well-known British country saying, "Cast ne're a clout 'ere May is out" is thought to refer to keeping well wrapped up until the Hawthorn blooms come out, rather than is often thought, the end of the month of May.

Historically, boughs full of blooms have been used in the traditional May day celebrations, decorating May Poles, garlands, May Queens and Green men.

Huge amounts of superstitions and beliefs shroud this simple shrub, and it has been used since Anglo-Saxon times as markers for land ownership and meeting grounds. There was a Belgic or Romano-British Thorn-cult revering the Hawthorn, mentioned in ancient charters, and it is easy to see, with the arrival of Christianity, how the combination of thorns, red berries in Autumn and pure white flowers, became symbolic for Christian festivities as well as earlier Pagan ones. In these early times May trees were dotted haphazardly through the countryside, rather like in the commonland near the river where we live, unchanged for centuries, and once Medieval Common Land for the grazing of animals belonging to the local villages.

However, with Parliament's Acts of Enclosure in the 18th/19th centuries, commonland like above, was taken back into private ownership and cultivation (mainly for sheep farming), and over 200,000 miles of Hawthorn hedges were planted across England, creating in May, thousands of miles of white ribbon-like hedgerows across the arable landscape. Most of the hedgerows around our home, are older, mixed plantings, as you can see here.

What takes my breath away about the lanes and footpaths around us at the moment, are the frothy, billowing clouds of cowparsley. They line every field edge, and all the places we walk are decorated by its wild abundance. To have it flowering so gorgeously at the same time as the Hawthorn above it, makes this my favourite time of year. What could be more beautifully natural, graceful, bountiful?

This is the lane that leads to our house, I never love it more than right now.


  1. Heavenly images - and I agree, it takes a lot to beat a lane at this time of year, it makes for serious dawdling, particularly to enjoy the cowslip - what is its latin name? Does it have anything to do with cows?

  2. Belinda..beautiful images. We were only talking about the Hawthorn today and the superstitions. Oh the country folk! Apparently goodluck and sign of a great Summer ahead when it blooms early so says my mother and her sister! So it must be right!!! I love the cow parsley too. Vase of that and I would be happy. I loved Kates bouquet - what about you? Sinead

  3. Love the lane that leads to your house edged with cow beautiful....
    Julie x

  4. Gosh! it's so pretty. What a great place to live. Enjoy!!

  5. Oh how glorious! You are surrounded by such beauty ~ and I love the laneway to your home ~ just beautiful! Love Brenda

  6. The surrounding countryside where you live looks absolutely beautiful. Abby x

  7. Truly beautiful, Belinda! Your photographs are always amazing and accompanied by interesting snippets of information. A thoroughly enjoyable post and now, I'd like to take a slow stroll along your lane, if I may. It's throughly charming :)

  8. As Monty Don says, "When I die, I'm going to May." Sigh... x

  9. Just gorgeous, it must smell heavenly in your garden too? I remember picking Hawthorn for my mother-in-law, she was horrified, said it meant death and to get them out of the house!!There's no pleasing some!! Love Linda x

  10. Jennifer, cow parsley is Anthriscus sylvestris, cowslip is Primula veris. Not sure why they are associated wtih cows, will have to look it up!

    Sinead, ooh, I hope that means we are in for a good summer! Where is Kate's bouquet? have I missed something on your blog?

    Julie, and Webb, Abby and Vintage Sunday, and Dee, thanks - I think I am lucky too!

    Jan, I LOVE that saying! Did you have any luck with the ribbons btw?

    Linda, how fascinating - that superstition is a pretty ancient one I think, something to do with the Virgin Mary maybe, will check it out.

  11. Just beautiful Belinda!! I can see why you love the path to your house, what a wonderful place to walk down. I love Queen's Ann Lace, is that what they are called? They remind me of my grandpa and I going for walks when I was little and they are just so pretty!