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Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Arran’s Flowers

Driving to Brodick can be a dangerous business, and I don’t mean because of the infamous potholes. The trouble is that the scenery’s so distractingly lovely that it’s positively hazardous. The other day it was the spectrum of colour on the roadside that snatched my attention, with red fuchsia, fiery montbretia, creamy lace meadowsweet, golden honeysuckle, and spires of purple loosestrife, all tumbling in luxuriant.disarray

The glorious vegetation of Arran can sometimes be overlooked because it’s easy to have close up encounters with wild creatures here, but there are not many parts of the British Isles where you are likely to find so much variety so easily; you can find me consulting my wildflowers book on most days. Seeing the common wildflowers in abundance is, for me, like meeting friends from my childhood, when they were often integrated in my outdoor games:-


Ten Activities for Children with Flowers, Weeds or Grass

(Before intensive farming methods in many places made flowers less plentiful.)

1. Make daisy chain necklaces.

2. Test if someone likes butter. Hold a buttercup under their chin. If there is a reflected yellow glow (there always is!) they like butter.

3. Make rose petal scent by squashing them in a jam jar with some water.

4. Impress others by grasping a nettle in your bare hands. (Make sure it’s actually a deadnettle, but the other person doesn’t need to know that.)

5. If you get it wrong and get stung, find a dock leaf to rub on the sting and soothe it.

6. Tell the time with dandelion “clocks”. Every puff to blow the seeds away is equivalent to an hour.

6. Make grass squeal by holding a split blade between your thumbs and blowing hard.

7. Stick strands of chickweed onto someone else’s back secretly.

8. Have a battle with sticky burrs.

9. Pick some grass with dangly seeds then chant “Here’s a tree in summer, (show the grass) here’s a tree in winter, (push the seeds off between thumb and fingers and hold them like a bouquet), here’s a bunch of flowers, (throw the seeds in the air), here’s your April showers”.

10. Pick buttercups and daisies, clover and forget-me-nots, on the way to school so that your teacher can put them in a jam jar on her desk.


Arran also has some fascinating areas of ancient woodland. It’s not widely known, but I learnt from Scottish Natural Heritage recently that the twisty, wind-swept oak woods on Arran’s west coast are truly rainforest: the Celtic rainforest. A high proportion of European mosses, liverworts, lichens and ferns can be found in these woods. In addition, the island is home to three types of unique whitebeam tree. So if otters and eagles are proving elusive, remember that Arran has lots of amazing wildlife that might be hidden away, but won’t hide from you.

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