In one of my childhood gardens there was, what we named, a spinney. A grassy path which passed behind the pond, did a curve and came out near the fruit bushes. Presenting a circuitous route, avoiding a bridge in the long straight path, which may, or may not have had, water under it long ago before we ever moved there, but, certainly never did while we there. This spinney was half hidden from view of the house or garden by an array of shrubs and small trees. I remember Lilac trees, because I climbed one and got stuck! Mum rescued me that time.
The pond had a small rockery, on the spinney side, with large rocks. And on the other side of the spinney path was a low mossy bank where tree roots lay exposed and fairy tale like. The whole was lightly dappled shaded under the tree canopy and was always a cool haven in summer although I avoided it in the cold and rain.
It was in the spinney we would sling the canvas hammock. A place to read and dream the hours away. It was also here we had attached to a branch a pair of metal rings to practice hoisting ourselves up by our arms and swinging. I wasn’t so good at that as my friend was. That’s how it went:)
I spent many hours in the spinney on my own, happy in my solitude. Sometimes with a book, sometimes just sitting and listening to the breeze in the lilacs, or watching ants being busy, spiders spinning webs. It was in the silence of the place I discovered a new phenomenon.
A solitary bee.
I knew about bees, they lived, in their hundreds, in hives or holes in trees, and sometimes they swarmed, again in large clusters. A bee which appeared to be living alone in a hole in the mossy bank was a puzzle. I didn’t want to be called stupid, so I watched it for quite a few days until I was sure enough of my facts to go and try and find an answer to the puzzle. Mum and Dad didn’t know but together we looked it up. Yes, there was a type of bee which lived alone, making its nest in banks.
Well who would have thought?
Wasn’t it lonely all by itself?
I discovered later, when I bought a book on insects with birthday money, that there dozens of these types of bees. Even more recently, I have found the number to be over 200 species in Britain. I’m not sure what type mine was, as I cannot recall what season I watched it, it may have been the miner bee in early March, making a nest and stocking it with nectar and pollen before sealing it and letting the young get on with it. Or a leaf cutter bee which cut rose leaves to build the nest; we certainly had enough roses to tempt them in.
I worried about the solitary bee and went looking for others. When you look they can be found. In banks, dead stems, under deserted flower pots. They like nice quiet hidden places.
As I realized this I grew to have fond thoughts about them.
They were like me in their preference:)
I was to meet others, on my travels and as I grew older, but my discovered ones under the lilac trees were special.
Nowadays, with my own garden, I can leave these hidden places with no one to come along and tidy them up. I don’t go searching for the bees. Ankles and knees forbid rough terrain, I know they are likely there, and that pleases me.
Every garden should have hidden places:)