18th April 2021 – Nature-sharing Rue on the Thames Path

There ought to be an expression for the experience of seeing something in nature which delights you but you have no-one at that moment to share it with. That does sound a bit sad, although has more pathos than I’d intended. Would ‘nature-sharing rue’ do it?

To be clear, I absolutely love walking and nature-watching on my own as well as with other people. Even with the most sympathetic of friends and family, the point is quickly reached when they’ve had quite enough birds or flowers pointed out to them, thank you very much.

Early this morning, while there’s frost still lingering, I set off with my lovely friend M. We natter through Sydenham Hill Wood, past the Horniman, and over One Tree Hill before parting company in Peckham Park. M has to get back for entertaining, whereas I have a day wonderfully free of arrangements.

Bearing north, I scan pavement edges through Nunhead and then cross the Old Kent Road. Wiggling through South Bermondsey I find my first flowering Smooth Sowthistle, Oxford Ragwort and Pellitory-of-the-wall for the year.

Smooth Sowthistle
Oxford Ragwort

Southwark Park is a relief after the grime and increasing traffic and after a quick coffee stop, I leave the park to meet the Thames Path at Bermondsey Wall. Here the remaining stonework of Edward the Third’s house has been colonised by Buck’s-horn Plantain, Common Mouse-ear and what I think is English Stonecrop – after sticking a leaf in my mouth to check that it’s not acidy-tasting Biting Stonecrop which is not at all advisable.

English Stonecrop
Buck’s-horn Plantain
Common Mouse-ear

Further along the Thames Path I notice a haze of red on the sloping bricks of the river wall and lean over for a closer look. I’ve never seen this plant before but I know instantly it’s Rue-leaved Saxifrage and it’s in flower too. Over the last few months, some of botany acquaintances have been posting pictures of the leaves of this plant from sites around Lambeth. I managed to resist the urge to rush out and plant-twitch as I was rather hoping to find some for myself in Southwark. It ticks all the boxes being tiny, a gorgeous colour and with achingly beautiful flowers.

A haze of red
Rue-leaved Saxifrage
Close-up of Rue-leaved Saxifrage flowers

I do a little jig, giggle a bit, and then feel a bit of nature rue. There’s a woman looking out over the Thames about 5 metres away. I wonder whether it would it be okay to ask her if she’s interested in plants, but decide not as she’s resolutely ignoring my squeaks of joy. Never mind. My ever-patient husband might be there when I get home.

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