So sang Arthur in Camelot but if he was riding around the Blackstairs today he might wonder about the wind, rain cold and darkness of this May day.It can only get better.
On the Barrow track today, despite the weather ,there was mighty activity. Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins were having a free for all as they darted and swooped for flies. They flew low and close to the water so it was very easy to see their distinctive markings. The red throat of the swallow, white rump of the House Martin and browner colour of the Sand Martin. All I needed to complete the picture was to see some swifts. But no sign yet.
In the ditch the Hawthorn was out. With it’s lovely white petals and delicate flower head it is one of the loveliest sights of the Irish countryside. The tree has always been associated with spring celebrations and in particular the feast of May Day honouring the Sun God Belenus. In Ireland we mark Bealtaine with events to celebrate the start of summer. We might have some time to wait.. The word “haw” is also an old word for hedge. The tree will grow thirty feet in height and it lives often to a ripe old age, sometimes lasting up to 400 years old.
The wood of the Hawthorn was used for making small pieces of jewellery and furniture and the root wood was often used for making boxes and combs.
The tree has many names, Hawthorn, May, Mayblossom, May Bush, Mayflower. In Irish folklore the Hawthorn or Whitethorn was often referred to as the Faery Bush and it has always been considered bad luck to cut it down.Herbalists of yore used hawthorn as a sedative and an anti- spasmodic and a diuretic. It was also much valued in dealing with kidney troubles.
Enjoy this most Irish of trees and it’s iconic blossom, out now in a ditch, field or bank, near you.