May is the month when the natural world is bursting with exuberance, the month of annual rebirth and renewal of life. Whilst all of us will come and go, nature will come and go and come again and again for many more millions of years. At this time of year nature demonstrates her fullness with the singing and breeding of birds, the return of our summer migrants, with butterflies and tadpoles and a mass of other manifestations, but perhaps above all with flowers.
Iris Murdock wrote that ‘people from a planet without flowers would think us mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us’. Yet, the nineteenth century American philosopher and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, stated that ‘many eyes go through the meadow but few see the flowers in it’. And much closer to home the late Edith Freeman of Wren Cottage, Ballingdon Street noted in ‘ Our River, The Stour at Sudbury’ ‘that from the footpaths criss-crossing the meadows there is much to observe. Yet how few in our time are tuned to appreciate the details of such beauty’. That may very well be the case for much of the year but in late May and early June there is an exception to the rule when blooming buttercups simply demand the attention of the most unobservant and disinterested of individuals.
Of course, it is the mass of flowers that does it. Years of holding the vegetation at a particular level of succession allows the buttercups to increase. On the Sudbury Common Lands it is the cattle that do the work in their slow, steady and haphazard manner, grazing a tussock here and a tuft there until all the pastures are eaten off and ready for nature’s next glorious spring show. On Friars Meadow the buttercup meadow is managed by mowing so that every square centimetre receives the same management. The results on both areas of the riverside are eye-catching to say the least.
On close inspection the buttercup blooms shine with a burnished metallic sheen that catches the light; what better bloom to hold beneath one’s chin to check if we liked butter when we were young? So the cumulative effect of millions of blooms in a pasture or meadow defies anyone to ignore them. Enjoy the spectacle while it lasts for Mother Nature has a lot to cram in during the busy summer season and all too soon the show will be over until the magical renewal in 2017.