Fringe Box



Riff Raff Diary for March 2012

Published on: 11 Apr, 2012
Updated on: 11 Apr, 2012

Riff Raff Cottage and Weir

by Robert Craig

Riverbank tales from our local St Catherine’s Lengthsman/Weir-keeper

With the unseasonably warm weather and lack of much needed rain it has meant another month with few adjustments made to my weirs, a mere thirteen in fact all made between the 4th and the 6th of March.

There was some work to be carried out in Shalford Nature Reserve finishing off the strimming of the embankments around the ponds and cutting back the overhanging branches, this was done whilst checking first for any early nesting birds.

For one of the days in the reserve I was joined by the Wey Navigation Conservation Volunteers to whom I was very grateful, many hands making light work.

Now the cut back is complete I am looking forward to visiting the reserve and monitoring the waterfowl, nesting birds and the insects that it attracts. There is a lively corner of the main pond at the moment full of frogs and their spawn.

Lady's Smock, Cuckoo Flower or Meadowcress - Cardemine Pratensis

The beginning of March also saw the appearance of the beautiful and delicate Lady’s Smock*, otherwise known as Cuckoo Flower or Meadowcress, lining the river banks. These flowers are an indicator I look for that winter is behind us. With its lilac to white blooms folklore has it that it was unlucky to have the flowers indoors or woven into May Day garlands.

In Ireland it was believed that a human or animal born on May Day would have an evil eye. This could be prevented by bathing the eye in the juice of Lady’s Smock. In France Lady’s Smock wasn’t used in May Day decorations because it was thought to be the favourite plant of adders and if you picked it you would be bitten within the year. If you picked it in Germany they believed your house would be struck by lightening.

A House Martin distinguishable from Sand Martins by the lack of a brown band at the top of the breast

Down at St.Catherine’s Lock on the 31st of the month I saw a pair of House Martins, the first of the year for me. In Guildford I have been preparing Millmead Lock for painting which has involved a lot of white gloss paint to be scraped off especially from the oak mooring bollards. These will in future be left unpainted as part of our aim to reduce the amount of white gloss paint on the locks in general thus reducing the visual impact on the surrounding area.

See you by the river,

Robert Craig. St. Catherine’s Lengthsman.

Riff Raff Cottage

*The name ‘Lady’s Smock’ derives from Tudor times because of the resemblance to the then common ladies’ smocks. It is also known as the ‘Cuckoo Flower’ because it appears at the first sound of the cuckoo, as shown by the quote from William Shakespeare below:

“When daisies pied and violets blue

And lady-smock all silver white

And Cuckoo-buds of yellow hue

Do paint the meadows with delight.”    Shakespeare- Love’s Labour’s Lost

Above extract from, ‘Field Guides to Healey Dell’. Ed

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