Churchyard Nature Note with Andrew Tompsett

October 2014

A touch of Autumn


After a remarkably good summer we are now seeing the approach of winter. It was thought by many that the dip in temperatures in August heralded the start of autumn but there has been a return to what is sometimes called an Indian Summer. Lets hope that  this is not followed by the monsoon!
Most of the swallows have left on their long journey south and news of some cuckoos bearing transmitters shows that most are in West Africa already, one called ‘Whortle’ even left as early as 19 June to arrive in the South Sahara in mid August. It is wonderful what this modern technology can tell us about the winter behaviour of birds considering that in Gilbert Whites time, when he wrote ‘The natural History of Selborne’ even some serious naturalists thought that swallows hibernated in the mud in the bottom of our ponds.
Robins are singing well again. At home our very tame robin seems to have gone and is replaced by a rather shy one. We read that the incomers may be wood dwellers from Russia and less used to human company.
So what is happening in the churchyard? David and his loyal helpers are beginning the winter clearance making the pathways and views better. Hawthorn trees generally are heavy with fruit which will be welcomed by those creatures that spend the winter here. You may have noticed that apples are a good size and colour this year due to the warmth in mid summer and even some of the ten young trees in the churchyard are bearing a crop. We have three trees which were raised from cuttings which came from Tehidy. These are a variety which roots from a cutting and is known locally as a ‘pitcher’. This is uncommon, as most apples will not grow from cuttings but was popular in the past due to the ease of propagation. Unfortunately this particular Tehidy apple though vigorous and healthy has an unpleasant taste and it is our intention to graft these with a tastier variety. Our friend and occasional rector Tom Pritchard has an apple known as Hereford Worcester which may be rare so we may graft this in the Spring.
I note that 4 years ago I wrote about the carol ‘Jesus Christ the apple tree.’ However useful apple trees are:
‘The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared to Christ the apple tree’