Ringed Recognition

We were looking at some old pictures the other days, and came upon this one of a kid in the ringed T-shirt. Without even looking at the date, we knew right away it was from the late 1950s or early 1960s. Why? Because just a picture of the ringed T-shirts of our youth calls up such a sense of familiarity, nostalgia and comfort. h-lefebvre-1960s-boy-jeans-striped-t-shirt-holding-bow-and-pulling-arrow-out-of-target-bull-s-eye

We wore them as kids, all the other kids we knew wore them (at least until they were replaced by the tie-dyed shirts a few years later). You weren’t a little kid during that area, in certain parts of the world, without having some version of the ringed T-shirt.

It’s old, personal magic.

The field in rows.

The field in rows.

So why is it that the ringed lines of of the harvested field near our house have the same effect on me?

I didn’t grow up here in France, I didn’t even grow up around fields, and certainly not around wildflower meadows that get harvested for winter cattle feed.

The field, post-cut and pre-rowed. So many different kinds of grass and wildflowers.

The field, post-cut and pre-rowed. So many different kinds of grass and wildflowers.

Still, this early summer vision, which I’ve seen for almost 20 years now, has the same effect on me as a ringed T-shirt. A sense of comfort, a confidence in the familiar progress of the seasons. The meadow grows wild every year, reaches a peak, and then grows wild again until its second harvest in autumn.

A note: This is the same favorite meadow that just a week ago looked like this:

When they were still upright and green.

When they were still upright and green.

Every year, I miss the wildflowers and watch the butterflies bob aimlessly through the empty field for a week or so. And then the new growth begins.

Roundabout Flowers

Bannockburn High School- 3rd year flowering Photo: On the Verge

Bannockburn High School- 3rd year flowering
Photo: On the Verge

It’s been a trend in recent years to replace the mown grass of urban traffic verges and roundabouts with wild flowers. The flowers require less maintenance, they’re easy on the eyes, and they are thought to provide habitat support for pollinators such as bees, bumblebees, butterflies and hover flies, all of which are under pressure for a variety of reasons, including pesticides, habitat loss and disease.

A University of Sussex study published in Insect Conservation and Diversity has quantified just what kind of impact this kind of wild flower intervention can have in a short time.

An initiative in Central Scotland oversaw the conversion of city areas usually covered in mown grass – roundabouts, road verges, parks, school grounds, the edges of sports fields. The study examined 30 of these sites over a period of two years after the flowers had been sown.

Bumblebee on cornflower.  Photo: Dave Goulson / Univ. of Sussex

Bumblebee on cornflower.
Photo: Dave Goulson / Univ. of Sussex

In just two years, they found 50 times more bumblebees and 13 times more hoverflies in areas that had previously been flower wastelands.

The seed mix used incorporated a variety of meadow flowers from the region. The project and its results show just how simple it can be to provide pollinator-friendly areas within cities.

This has been a trend in my corner of the world, as well. And looking at the lush, lively fields of flowers that fill most of the roundabouts in our area, I’m not really sure why we ever thought putting in mown grass was a better solution in the first place.

Roundabout in Wick, Scotland Photo: Caithness

Roundabout in Wick, Scotland
Photo: Caithness