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A Cambridgeshire lockdown bursting with colour and sound




In this strangest of months nature has provided us with much needed therapy during lockdown. Now we are grounded, we notice so much more that is nearby. It might be the rosemary flowering in the next-door front garden or the cherry blossom bursting out in the park.

Picture: Martin Walters
Picture: Martin Walters

With clearer air and much reduced noise from traffic and aircraft, we can also hear the birds so much more clearly. Each morning I can hear the distant laughing calls of green woodpeckers, something I have never experienced from home before. Without the usual background hum such sounds travel a surprising distance in calm weather. The high-pitched song of a goldcrest sounded quite loud as I pushed my sleeping granddaughter in her buggy around the corner past a conifer and I paused to enjoy a moment of such close contact with the natural world. Each morning at dawn a blackbird serenades us at quite remarkable volume. For a few seconds I was able to forget, or briefly drown out the horror of the pandemic that is so severely affecting every aspect of our lives.

This last month one particular flower has seemed to dominate – the magnificent magnolia. Aided by the mild winter and early spring, magnolias have blossomed on every street corner and garden. In the botanic garden, before it sadly had to close, these wonderful trees and shrubs were in superb form, bearing stunning blooms ranging from pure white through pink to deep purple.

The genus Magnolia is a large one with over 200 species and it can boast a long evolutionary history with fossils very similar to those growing today flourishing 20 million years ago. An ancestral characteristic is that the flower parts are not differentiated into sepals and petals and are known as tepals, ranging in number up to 15, in three or more whorls. In the wild, the main centre lies in east and south-east Asia, with another area of distribution in eastern North America through

Picture: Martin Walters
Picture: Martin Walters

The genus Magnolia is a large one with over 200 species and it can boast a long evolutionary history with fossils very similar to those growing today flourishing 20 million years ago. An ancestral characteristic is that the flower parts are not differentiated into sepals and petals and are known as tepals, ranging in number up to 15, in three or more whorls. In the wild, the main centre lies in east and south-east Asia, with another area of distribution in eastern North America through Central America to the West Indies. Most species carry large fragrant flowers that are cup-shaped, though in some such as the delicate Magnolia stellata, the tepals are deeply cut, giving the flowers are star-like shape. What makes them all the more impressive is that the flowers mostly appear ahead of the leaves, and so are not obscured by the developing foliage.

As I write, we are at home with one of our daughters and our two grandchildren. The youngest will be one year old on the 22nd of this month. Her name, most appropriately, is Magnolia.



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