Country diary: the dog rose rambles over our common places
Wenlock Edge, Shropshire: This field all wet with rain is a rare wonder, as it slowly becomes a wood of hawthorn and sallow
After rain, the world is a rose. In each water droplet, the world is a rose. Rain fell on the railway line and a field that had a hill like a tumulus of overburden from the limestone quarry. Now the hill has gone and so has the railway, and the field is almost gone too. It is becoming a wood of hawthorn and sallow.
On this day, soaked to the knee, there are more orchids than you could shake a stick at – common spotted, pyramidal, southern marsh and bee. There is more bird’s-foot trefoil, self-heal, ground ivy, centaury, yellow-wort, common vetch; more kinds of meadow grass, bromes, oat grasses, more sedge and rush than surrounding fields because this sod is sodden, undrained, uncultivated, ungrazed, unmowed and largely – due to brambly encroachments – unvisited.
There are fewer green woodpeckers digging fewer yellow ant tumps, fewer deer laying up by day, fewer barn owls voleing at dusk, fewer butterflies but for the odd small heath, small tortoiseshell and the smallness of quicksilver micromoths.
This was once the commonplace, a common place, a dog-hole, when “dog” meant common. But now, in uncommon times, when a field such as this is a rare wonder, “dog” can mean familial, the familiar, an animate love. Just as the dogs that lay at the feet of stone aristocrats in their tombs become (to misinterpret Larkin’s An Arundel Tomb) tokens of the love that survives us, so the dog rose rambles over all our works, our struggles and abdications, filling sacred spaces with the commonplace briar and these flowers in the rain.
Here, the five-fingered wave of petals, the circle of lamppost stamens shaking gold-dust into the weeping glue of the stigma then drilling pollen tubes down the temple dome into ovules in imitation of roots earthed below. The scent of mornings, the shameless blush, the snag of thorns – a glimpse of another kind of experience. Why run to see Rosa canina when the dog rose runs to meet you, to bite and beguile? And after the rain, in the grasses, herbs and scrub, in its every particle, the world is a rose.