The drovers' lanes and wide-verged enclosure roads of High Leicestershire are currently billowing with characterful cow parsley. You may know it as Queen Anne's Lace, Keck, or even Badman's Oatmeal, but there's no mistaking what Richard Mabey, in his indispensable Flora Britannica, calls "mile upon mile of...indomitable, dusty smocking". Soon the council mowers will be out, scything through it all to leave bare verges, so yesterday we collected a few stalks and stuffed them into this impromptu vase as the centrepiece for our Sunday lunch table. Constance Spry would've been very proud of us. The Ovaltine tin is courtesy of a shed clearing by master joiner and bicycliste Clarkie, who brought it in a carrier bag to early doors at the pub on Friday evening. " I didn't think you'd got enough of 'em" he explained, and also inside the bag was a green and red Fowler's Black Treacle tin. Ah, the month of May in Unmitigated England, holding so many joys. Incidentally, did you know that cow parsley is part of the carrot family? Look closely at the leaves.
I am a designer, writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012) and Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012)