When I was growing up, back in the sixties and seventies, I can remember my mum regretting the fact that there were not as many wild flowers in the hedges and verges as there had been when she was a girl. This was not just nostalgia adding a rosy glow to her memories, it was simple fact. My mum was born in the 1930’s and grew up in the days before pesticides were in common use.
July is the main flowering month for many of the wild flowers that grow on the cliff top just south of Filey where I walk my dogs. It is an environment that has remained more or less unspoiled and I know it well, so well that I can point out in winter where the patches of the less common wild flowers will be. In those cold days I hurry along, trying to avoid the mud, with my head down against the wind but on a warm July morning with a cooling breeze and a blue sky it becomes a place to linger. It is a place to stop, think and relish the simple beauty of plants like Lady’s Bedstraw, Red Campion, Bird’s Eye Trefoil, Tufted Vetch, Ragwort and Doves Foot Cranesbill as they wind their flowers through the grasses and bushes and cling to life for another season. Even the names are strange and magical and very few of the people who walk along the path on a summer visit would be able to tell you what all of them are. These are plants that grow abundantly all over the country but many of them manage to remain anonymous. Few of these flowers are flashy attention seekers in the way that cultivated garden flowers are. They are not the carefully cultivated and pampered garden supermodels of the plant world bred to impress. These are quiet, gentle, unassuming beauties who are easily trodden on and pushed aside and quick to wilt. They have to work for a living, whether they are a Tufted Vetch twisting its tiny tendrils around the grass stalks to reach the light and forming a drift of deep purple, a patch of bright yellow Yarrow digging its roots into the crumbling infertile soil of the cliff side, or a purple Cornflower fighting the wind as it trembles on its fragile stalk.
I have watched the cliff top on the other side of the bay become hard and lifeless from too many feet in the years since the cliff top car park was made and it became too easy for people to wander along it and look at the Brigg. Nothing can ever be taken for granted when it comes to protecting nature but the buffer zone of Filey golf club and the less obvious nature of my part of the cliff for people wanting a short walk have looked after it so far. Long may that continue. All that the flowers ask is that they be left in peace. They will do the hard work for themselves.