Saturday, 1 May 2021

Walking In the Cotswolds With a Song In My Head

Gorse and limestone, but where’s my snake?


Climbing up on Solsbury Hill/I could see thecity light/Wind was blowing, time stood still/Eagle flew out of the night

I’ve no idea why I was singing and humming (the latter, when words failed me) Peter Gabriel’s tune in my head, other than it seemed appropriate as we went up Cleeve Common, in Gloucestershire. This is a habit I’ve had for many years now. Serenading myself quietly. I think I’ve taken after my dad in that respect. He always had a melody on his lips. Sometimes it was a well-known song played endlessly on the radio. Other times it was a piece he was working on, ready to be finished on the upright piano we had back then in my house.

Geology- and archaeology-rich Cleeve Common sits in one-thousand acres of agriculturally unimproved limestone grassland, in the Cotswolds. Quarries and gorse thickets add to the variety of wildlife habitats.

Untouched by the plough or fertiliser, the area is home to a wide range of wild flowers, many of which would have been familiar throughout Britain before the post-war intensification of farming.

However, despite the presence of three Scheduled Ancient Monuments (the Cross Dyke, the Hill Fort and the Ring), what I really wanted to see was an adder.

I’d heard so much about Britain’s only venomous snake. The presence of meadow pipits was a welcome sign as I knew that adders liked hunting ground-nesting birds. Also, the high-rising temperature would have tempted this usually shy reptile to leave its hideout in order to seek the warmth of the sun.

Yet, after walking for just over an hour there was no slithering, dark zig-zag pattern to spot. We got back to the car, my heart “going boom, boom, boom”, but I guess you already knew that. After all, I’m used to serenading myself.


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