Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Alder buckaroo thorn

It's a bit like word association or even mind mapping but for me some of the common names of British wildlife have a habit of conjuring up other images, chough is a case in point. Another such obscure childish association is alder buckthorn for some reason the name of this scarce tree reminds me of the 1970s kids game Buckaroo. This as you will probably know is a brightly coloured plastic model based on a gold prospectors pack mule whereby various pieces of mining paraphernalia are gradually attached to the animal until it can take no more and bucks violently to release its burden.

I remember this game from my youth in the days when Christmas day always started with a light covering of snow followed by the excited release of the small items contained within the stocking at the end of my bed. This leg covering was of course one of my fathers old football socks stuffed full of goodies, including a pack of playing cards, a rubber (not the contraceptive type), a diecast matchbox model of a Ford Cortina complete with elevated lead content and assorted fruit and nuts for padding. The main prize however was always downstairs as this was where the fireplace was and therefore the only room accessible to Father Christmas. Amongst the goodies here would be the latest Blue Peter annual with plenty of photographs of the yummy Valarie Singleton, a new Subbuteo team usually the Arsenal away strip, a blue and white bobble hat and scarf, the latest Top of the Pops LP complete with cover photograph of a young scantily clad lady in a yellow crocheted bikini and of course a family game such as Buckaroo, Mousetrap or Monopoly.

Now I've been thinking, those south valleys industrial heritage concept marketers are surely missing a trick. Just like the plethora of limited edition Monopoly that is available nowadays, how about a local version of Buckaroo? This could take the shape of a forlorn blinkered pit pony in monochrome tones complete with hundredweight (cwt) bags of high carbon content anthracite as its load and instead of bucking with gay abandon the poor animal collapses in a heap when it can take no more. This sounds funny but with the current generation growing up without having the prospect of going down the pit to find work this twisted form of marketing could serve as a handy reminder of the working class exploitation and hardship that was endouered to harvest this black gold and with it the pillage of the landscape - there's a book in this somewhere!

Going back to the real purpose of this entry, as trees go alder buckthorn could be classed as a rarity or infrequent at least as its not a species I encounter often. But last weekend several inviduals were located adjacent to the Garndiffaith viaduct and checking the Flora of Monmouthshire confirmed its patchy existence. Its pleasing at least that the food plant of the brimstone butterfly still has a toe hold in the valleys.

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