On the wetter slopes of Barlands common, where a grasshopper warbler sings each spring, there’s a small, secluded lane which brims with wildlife. It’s hidden and narrow, just enough for two people to walk along, the track is indistinct and it looks as though no one has been here all spring. Tall meadow buttercups flank both sides of the path, but there’s much more in the dense vegetation; wild pea, cuckoo flowers, daisies, herb robert, speedwell, ragged robin, red campion, dandelion puff balls, red clover, nettles, dock and a quite wonderful display of southern marsh orchids. There are insects too, crane flies, a few large red damselflies, common cardinal beetles, but alas very few butterflies. I find just a couple of green-veined whites and single speckled wood. There are few birds, although a distant willow warbler sings and the song of a very close blackcap resounds in my ear.
At the top of the lane, a five-barred gate blocks the way to an extraordinary field completely covered with buttercups, possibly another result of the long cold spring. There’s wet woodland here, mostly hazel and willow and a few oaks with shining new leaves fighting for survival in the dense carr. In a sunny glade, perfectly formed orchids look like decorative candles and the ground is doted here and there with mating damselflies.
There’s nothing rare here, it’s just the British countryside as it should be in June, but there’s no buzzing of insects, such a feature of quiet spots like this until not so long ago.
Back on the common proper the wind plays tricks with the singing grasshopper warbler reeling its strange song from within a dense patch of brambles; it sounds a little similar to the wheezing of a greenfinch in the woodland behind. I've never found the nest and don’t intend to even look for it this year.