Country Diary: Thriving plant was introduced by the Romans

Alexanders, or Macedonian Parsley.
Alexanders, or Macedonian Parsley.

Only the gulls’ cry, and breaking waves disturb the silence of the bay.

Firm sands, the little dulling edge of foam,

That browns and dwindles as the wave goes home...

Rupert Brooke

I sought sanderlings along the tide-mark of South Bay, but only two flocks of Turnstones feeding on the harbour wall were observed. They allowed Tigga and myself close proximity to within a metre or so!

Above the Tea Pot Cafe at the start of the Marine Drive, a huge tunny fish shone like silver, suspended from a 13ft ‘wave’ of metal. Ray Lonsdale’s stainless steel sculpture symbolises Scarborough’s heritage of tunny fishing. I commissioned it as a gift to the residents and friends of our resort.

Ascending Castle Hill, amongst the decaying leaves arose a welcome sign of early spring. Alexanders, or Macedonian parsley was already several inches tall, but grows up to 4ft. It was introduced as a pot plant by the Romans, and thrives particularly well near the coast beneath hedges. It has many uses when mature, as all parts can be eaten – especially the stems.

Brambles flaunted leaves of red and golden yellow beside the pathway near the view-point and beyond. What views over the harbour and old town to Oliver’s Mount and south-east to Flamborough Head!

A brief visit to Filey’s Country Park on a bitterly cold day, was to observe many gulls rapidly stamping their feet up and down on the turf. Was it an attempt to keep them warm? No. Gulls do this to lure earthworms to the surface, which they then catch and devour.

Parties of handsome oystercatchers, smartly attired in black and white plumage, with heavy orange bill and matching legs, entertained us with their acts of tug o’war.

Their powerful, chisel-tipped bill enables them to prise open shells of cockles and mussels on the shore. Inland, they feed on worms. Their long, pointed bill can probe the soil to a good depth before tugging out their trophy.

Daylight was fading as we called at Johnson’s pond. Five herons huddled beside the hedgerow, and in a tree to roost. Three woodpigeons gorged on hawthorn berries, their feeding rate said to increase to a peak just before they fly to roost. Disturbed by a passing vehicle, they dashed to safety, and disappeared into a magnificent sunset, reflected in the mirrored waters of the pond.

Silence. Only a hare lolloped across the meadow towards the water’s edge. Then, as dusk descended, a barn owl crossed the road and over an adjacent field, looking pale and ghost-like, with long rounded wings. Road verges often provide ideal habitats for small mammals, sometimes even along main roads. Hunting for prey, barn owls frequently become traffic victims, alas. Their decline has been ongoing over the past 50 years, unfortunately.