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What To Look Out For - December 2018

  • Thu 1st Nov, 2018

Dozing in Briars  

Or “Watch That Spade Dude!”

Not so long ago I remember seeing a newly built large house in a village going by the name of ‘The Briars’. The garden had no briars, no grass or anything green which could be mistaken for a garden. I remember thinking how sad that the occupants love the idea of the word but not the briars themselves. Of course, that was based on my idea of briars as a thorny thicket of vegetation. The rather cool Urban Dictionary web site has ‘briar patch’ defined as “The place you secretly really want to be, even though the person sending you there thinks it's a punishment”. This leads on nicely from the old story about Br'er Rabbit's favourite patch for hiding in the famous Uncle Remus stories.

Hedgehog © Richard BainesHedgehog © Richard Baines

Hiding in a wild and unkept briar patch is a really good idea if your trying to escape the cold. Some of our most loved animals need a briar patch they can call home, find food and in winter doze undisturbed or go into full hibernation. Hedgehogs, Wood Mice, Robins, Song Thrushes, Wrens and Newts. When I was six years old, I found my first pet; a newt called you guessed it Newton! I can’t remember much about it just that I was so excited when I found it under a rock, I made a circle of stones, chose a name for it and watched in horror as it slowly tried to escape.

Smooth Newt © Richard BainesSmooth Newt © Richard Baines

Fast forward to November 2018 I’m in our new garden pondering how to create my very own briar patch. Out with the old in with the new, clearing away a few unwanted old flowers and moving rocks with care and putting them back just in case someone is living underneath. A movement caught my eye on a nearby flat stone. Wow it’s a newt and not just any old newt but a beautiful male Smooth Newt just like my first pet! I was so relieved my spade hadn’t done any damage. I carefully lifted the stone and allowed it to crawl under the all new briar patch.

Henry David Thoreau once wrote “In wildness is the preservation of the World” Let’s bring that wildness into our gardens and create more briar patches! But we must be extra careful at this time of year, you never know who’s dozing in their thorny patch of paradise.

Richard Baines

Yorkshire Coast Nature