On the river’s edge to the North of the Egg at 50º47’31.19″ N + 1º 24’19.58″ W, a plaque invites remembrance of a moment in time seventy years ago. Exbury House (designated HMS Mastadon) was the centre for training the crews of the landing craft gathered along the length of the Beaulieu River, in preparation for Operation Overlord – the amphibious landings in Normandy on June 6th 1944.
The tamarisk trees on the outer bank are beginning to blossom and as with other plants on the foreshore, I am collecting a small sample to ‘preserve’ in alcohol. The pink blossom, red of the stem and fresh green foliage will soon be leached out. More ghostly reminders of transience in a changing place.
The decayed wooden hulk of the supply boat @ 50º47’54.53″ N & 1º24’33.35″ W, dates from the later days of the second world war and it is slowly returning to the (soggy) earth from which its timbers originally sprang. Every day adds a story to its seventy year long narrative, as here, in my own parish, the wooden walls of the Egg begin their own journey.
On the morning of April 30th at 6am, the whole of the Eggdom was shrouded in a dense vaporous mist. It resisted the weak warmth of the sun for several hours.
The well eroded branch of a riverine oak beside the river at Exbury is a swirling eddying ocean of currents which echo the wider pattern of the world’s oceans imaged from data captured by NASA satellites circling the earth between 2005 and 2007.
The crescent of a waning moon reached out to Venus with open arms this morning, lit bright in light from a sun still lingering below the horizon and reflected in the calm water of a falling tide. The ‘two-horned queen of the stars’* embracing love, fertility and prosperity above an expectant Egg.
* In the Carmen Saeculare, performed in 17 BC, Horace invokes Luna as the “two-horned queen of the stars” (siderum regina bicornis). Ref. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luna_(goddess)
I spent all morning studying Andricus Kollari, the tiny parasitic wasp whose eggs cause the marble oak galls on both scrubby oaks growing beside my own Egg. The life cycle of the wasp requires the presence of a Turkey oak which first grew in the UK before the last glacial period around 110,000 years ago and was reintroduced in 1735 as an ornamental tree. Nearby Exbury Gardens has its own mature examples.
‘The developing spherical galls mature in August and each has a central chamber, with a single female wasp larva of an asexual generation, which emerges through a ‘woodworm-like’ hole as an adult winged gall-wasp in September. These asexual females lay unfertilized eggs in the embryonic bud leaves of the Turkey oak, with galls slowly developing during winter, and visible in March and April as small oval structures between the bud scales, looking like ant’s eggs. The emerging adult gall-wasps in spring are the sexual generation, producing both males and females, which fly to the common oaks to initiate the formation of the summer marble gall.’
By 1830 the galls were a concern in the new Forest, where it was thought that they reduced acorn production sufficiently to have an adverse effect on Pannage* This year there was a huge crop of both galls and acorns. Beadle drawings use ink made from the galls. *ref. my blog of January 22nd.
The Gall is more often seen than its wasp, which is just 1.5 – 2mm in length.
The blackthorn thicket is filled with thousands of tiny buds which will soon produce cascades of bright flowers to whiten the wintery greyness surrounding the Egg. These blooms are thought to symbolise both life and death together, as they appear on the tree before any leaves; symbolising both an ending (of winter) and a new beginning (of spring).