Last year I discovered that I live very close to one of the largest colonies of pasque flowers in the country. Of course I hasten along to investigate and enjoy the delightful spectacle and this year I have kept a vague eye on the Therfield Heath website for news of their blooming. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the first flowers had been spotted, so I took the opportunity to visit the site again at the weekend while the sun was shining and the flowers fully open.
And the show is fantastic! Miles better than last year. The hillside is positively thick with the flowers. Indeed, they are so numerous that there seem to be an ever deepening purple haze ahead of you as you follow the track round the contour of the hill.
I met a couple who have been coming to see the pasque flowers here for 50 years and they say that they have never seen a better show.
Many people were visiting the site in spite of the appearance of these carefully timed photos. For instance, I met a U3A (University of the Third Age) group comparing notes as I was leaving and there is some damage caused by the wear and tear of footsteps on the hillside, but most people were at least following the narrow trails.
Everyone was taking photos of course and there was some impressive kit being lugged around. But it is a prickily affair taking close-ups at ground level due to the number of dried, stiff carlina thistles still around.
Happily, there was a satisfying buzz of pollinating activity from bees, bumblebees and other insects. So hopefully there will be a good crop of seeds.
Set against this, the prevalent Heath snail, Helicella itala was very much in evidence and causes some small amount of damage.
And on a positive note, the fencing put up a couple of years ago to prevent rabbit damage, seems to be working very well.
Note: Pasque flowers are now rare in the UK due to changes in land use and the loss of grazed chalk or limestone grassland. They are classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and as Vulnerable in Britain on the Red Data List.