Sunday, July 06, 2014

The hawthorn

click photo to enlarge
I've always liked hawthorns. They are a hardy tree, able to grow in the widest range of locations from cliff face to lowland meadow, from derelict industrial waste land to city street. And wherever they grow they offer the same four attributes - stark and leafless in winter, green and leafy in summer, covered in white blossom ("May") in spring, and yellow/brown leaves contrasting with red berries ("haws") in autumn. Yes, they have thorns, and if  you want to trim or handle them then thick gloves are required. But that downside becomes an advantage when you plant it as a security hedge to deter interlopers. I have a hawthorn hedge that is impenetrable to all but birds, though cats have found a way through at the base. A further virtue, from my perspective, is that it only requires a single cut each year.

Hawthorn is a long-lived tree and happy to grow in solitary isolation. Many of England's Anglo-Saxon charters mention hawthorn trees as markers of property boundaries. Some significant specimens served as meeting places where villagers would gather to discuss matters of importance.In those long-gone days the new, spring leaves were nibbled by poor children to ward off hunger pangs. This spawned the ironic name for the young leaves of "bread and cheese". Today's photograph shows a lone, gnarled, hawthorn tree on an area of upland pasture and limestone known as Feizor Thwaite a couple of miles from Settle in North Yorkshire. The prevailing south-westerly wind is partly responsible for its shape, but it must also be the result of the attentions of sheep - rubbing and nibbling - as well as the restrictions on its roots imposed by the limestone.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 66mm (99mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On