Badbury Clump, near Faringdon, Oxfordshire.
HINGEFINKLE'S LOGBOOK (Fifteenth Instalment)
Part Three: Travels with a Little Companion
The Unhappy Unicorn
On that misty night of Lughnasadh, when you, my dear little Alias, appeared on my doorstep inside a wicker picnic hamper, I was most impressed as I tried to dress and feed you, by the fact that you seemed to understand every word I said. Of course, there was also the delightful discovery, made by means of Gladys Sparkbright’s stethoscope, that your heart possessed three chambers - but what
excited me in the hours that followed was the way you laughed at all of my jokes. A baby hominid of the more mundane sort would barely have been able to blow bubbles at that age; you chortled and giggled in a most heartening and flattering manner. Accordingly, I waited with great eagerness for the day when you might be inspired by Oghma to say your first word. It did not happen, I seem to remember, until the next Imbolc, that merry season when green shoots rupture the ground and the sun lingers lazily in the sign of Aries. And never let it be said that Oghma does not have a sense of humour, for I am sure that he got us into a pretty fix that day solely for the purpose of making you speak.
It had become my habit in Imbolc, as you well know, dear boy, to fill a backpack with specimen jars and other necessities, tuck Monsters Misc. under my arm, and stride out upon the highways and byways in search of divers creatures and adventures. Such adventures are essential for the serious student of bardic and biological lore. An alchemist must needs encounter chemicals, an astrologer must needs look at the stars; so it follows, dear Alias, that a monsterologist must seek out monsters. When, therefore, I embarked upon an expedition to the lands north-west of the Bluebell Wood in Imbolc 404, carrying, as you might deduce, an extra piece of luggage, I expected a reasonable amount of danger, and, from the giggles and gurgles coming from my new pack, it was evident that you were just as excited as I was.
Ah! The Bluebell Wood in Imbolc! There is nowhere more delightful than the dells and dingles of that great forest, carpeted as they are in that season not only with bluebells, but also with wood-anemones and bugle-flowers. In the brighter patches, delicate orchises spear the air, and young yellow-rattles entwine their roots about the rhizomes of grasses, thrusting their heads up towards a cloudless sky. The birds are busy with nesting, harts and does frolick noisily in the undergrowth, squirrels scamper and scold in the branches overhead, and the buds burst forth in waxing pinpoints of palest green. There are more dangerous creatures there, of course, but even their malicious natures are placated by the coming of Imbolc, for it is the season in which delicate and unsullied things take courage and come out of hiding.
And so I let you skip with bare feet down the forest pathways, your toes landing lightly on last season’s leaves, your laughter ringing through the treetops, where long-tailed tits put their heads on one side and listened to the music of your joy. It was you who found the strange tracks, leading away into the darker parts of the forest. I said that they were those of a little deer, for they were cloven hoofed, but you shrug
ged your shoulders doubtfully, and with retrospect it seems that you were right to do so.
You shed little tears of regret as we emerged at the other side of the forest and forged ahead across open land. Behind us, the line of birches swept towards the north where, as I had ascertained on previous journeys, it continues in a great crescent beyond the mountains which contain the bower of Amanita. But I was determined that we should head north-west, and that meant a long walk through lowland meadows and along gently bubbling streams lined with willows, until at last, with skylarks singing invisibly above us, we reached the thriving market-town of Gwyngrasping. It is a busy town at the best of times, but in the season of Imbolc, it positively hums with activity, like a beehive whose occupants are preparing to swarm. But as we approached the marketplace, keen to avail ourselves of some fresh bread and cheese, I had the distinct impression that there was something else, an added buzz of excitement in the air, heralding something strange and untoward.
“Hum, excuse me,” I said to the Miller as he passed, beating flour from his apron and muttering something about ham sandwiches and pickled onions, “there does seem to be more clamour than I expected, Imbolc notwithstanding.”
“You can’t be from these parts, then,” replied the Miller, looking suspiciously at our clothes, and clearly not appreciating their tasteful exuberance, “or you would know.”
“Hum. Know what
“Why - about the Unicorn, of course! What else could cause all this to-do?”
“Unicorn?” I cried, dropping my pince-nez in my excitement. I stooped to pick it up, and w
happened. And for just less than 10 minutes. Other than that, it was pretty ordinary sunset.
Amazing golden light bathed the entire plateau which was just livened up by a heavy shower in the afternoon. The little drops of water that hung on to the flowers simply sparkled in the golden light, magnifying the effect. To top it all, there was a huge rainbow which touched on both sides. 24mm was simply not wide enough to capture the other end in the same frame. (I did take two separate shots for a pano). Flower:
Impatiens LawiiLocal Name:
Kaas Plateau, SataraNote:
Being in Kaas with Nature India was an enlightening experience. Although I always advocated being sensitive towards our environment and protecting nature for generations to come, the information Adesh and Mandar (from Nature India) shared on how fragile the entire ecosystem is around Kaas, was really an eye opener.
Although we see seemingly endless carpets of flowers every season, what
we do not see is how many species of flowers that do not make it this year from last year. Blame it on lack of will to preserve the plateau (and slopes), uncontrolled grazing by the cattle, awareness among common people like us but the truth is, the whole plateau is very sensitive to changes.
During the trip, we saw a large volume of people on the plateau, so much that there was a traffic jam on the plateau for 3-4 hours. I have taken a few pics of the place at the time. It was something similar to a Kumbh mela. It was saddening to see people getting off from posh cars and simply running around on the flower carpets taking pictures of the family standing on the flower beds.
Ameet and I did a second trip this week and the scene had changed dastically. We saw large patches of flowers trampled upon and hence a muddy mess. If this can happen in 4 days, imagine what
could happen in 4 years.
I saw a few pics posted in a flickr group which could not have been taken without getting on the flower beds. I hope the photographers were sensitive and stepped only on the rocks (there were plenty). Infact there is a photo of a photographer squarely in the middle of a flower carpet.
Being educated and well versed with the condition of the environment, we simply have no excuses what
soever to defend ourselves from such careless and insensitive deeds. Its a long speech, but the message has to spread.