Saturday 19 March 2016

Snowdrop Time

January and February is snowdrop time in Milton Country Park. 

Clump of snowdrops in angle of fallen log
By Visitor Centre - 31 January 2016

Although I first photographed snowdrops in late December, most flowered at their normal time in the first two months of the year.

A lot of the snowdrops in the park are in the garden area, which is at its best at this time of the year.  For that reason, I will deal with the garden in my next post, and concentrate on the flowers in the main area of the park in this post.

Spread of snowdrops besides grassy path
Tomkins Mead - 24 February 2016

In the park itself, many of the larger clumps are beside the path leading through Tomkin's Mead. In writing this, I realise how many of the photographs I have published on this blog have been from the margins of the paths, the lakes or the woods. What makes the margin so interesting? There is the aesthetic aspect of course. A group of snowdrops flowering beside a path to lead the eye further into the picture is undoubtedly pleasing. As in this image, the path also serves to guide the viewer around the wider environment of the flowers. 

Clumps of snowdrops among leaf litter
Woods by Hall's Pond - 31 January 2016

But I think it goes beyond this, and that the biodiversity is greater at the margin. Take, for example, a common situation in the country park: a path running beside a wood. In the wood, the dense canopy tends to block the sunshine and stifle plant life beneath. On the other hand, the centre of the path is trampled down with only the toughest grasses surviving. It is in the intervening margin that plants can thrive in semi shade without being trampled down. This photograph dramatically illustrates how little can grow beneath the trees: these three clumps of snowdrops have the ground almost entirely to the themselves.

Snowdrops on top of bank
Tomkins' Mead - 16 February 2016

There may not be that much around to photograph at this time of year, but what there is has made me think, not only of biodiversity but also the difference between human vision and what the camera records. I am particularly interested in the way the brain will focus on one particular aspect of a scene at the exclusion of almost everything else. The object of interest seems to fill the whole field of vision. When presented with a 2D representation of the same scene, the brain seems to take an almost perverse pleasure in focussing on everything but the intended object of the image.

Take this picture of snowdrops growing on a small bank west of Todd's Pit. In the wild, I saw a bank with a row of snowdrops growing surrounded by grass and trees, to which, except for a cherry plum flowering in the background, I paid no attention whatsoever. In a way, they did not exist, they went unseen. In the picture, the nettles, the broken branches, the twigs growing up, and even the dead leaves left hanging on the dead stalks of last year's growth all demand my attention. No longer are these 'features' to be ignored and looked past, they have become very insistently part of the story of the picture. Since this story, of snowdrops growing amongst trees and the detritus of last summer's growth, is the story I want to tell, I have published the picture. To clean the picture up, I would have been left with just another pretty picture of snowdrops, that would say nothing about snowdrops growing in Milton Country Park. But I am left wondering, why the intellect focusses so selectively in the wild, and so non-selectively on a picture.

Cherry Plum

Cherry plum blossom just visible against bare trees
South West of Park - 19 January 2016

This same selective / non-selective viewing also affects my next subject. When I first tried to photograph cherry plum blossom last March, I described the flowers as playing hide and seek with the camera. This year the blossom is at least a month earlier, but is still every bit as elusive. This tree appeared, at the time of taking,  to be a mass of white. Somehow, the act of photographing the tree shrivelled the flowers! No longer is there a myriad of blossom, but more a smattering of small white flowers.

Park with cherry plums on either side and arching over
South West of Park - 7 February 2016

To fully do justice to such a bush in a photograph, you need a bush or bushes big enough to photographed at a such a distance that the space between the flowers is no longer visible. Just such a situation is here on the path through Tomkin's Mead. It is an archetypal country park scene with the path running between flowering trees that meet overhead to form a tunnel.


Small clump of daffodils at base of silver birch
By Car Park - 31 January 2016

The other spring flower much in evidence in the park is the daffodil.  These are scattered around the park, mostly in small clumps, like these growing among the birch trees by the car park.

Clumps of daffodils besides access road
Access Road - 24 February 2016

Finally, in this last image, we have flowers - daffodils - growing beside a path.   These daffodils, with their new growth and bright flowers, are in stark contrast to the cold bareness of the surrounding landscape. 

Next: The Garden


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