Lately, the lanes have been full of the white tangled pompoms of Old Man’s Beard (also known as Traveller’s Joy). This plant, with its distinctively pale and straggly spheres, climbs rampantly through the hedges. Each time I see it, I am reminded of a much-loved book from my childhood: The Winter Bear by Ruth Craft (sadly no longer in print). It is a beautifully illustrated story about three children, out for a walk on a cold day. The book is named for the abandoned knitted bear which the youngest rescues from a hedge. Meanwhile, another child is picking a winter posy:
‘One made a posy. In winter? You’re crazy! But look – seeds, dried weeds, bryony vine and old man’s beard.’
Even as a child, the idea of this charmed me: the thought of finding beauty in the bleakest of landscapes and the gathering of a flowerless bouquet.