Country diary: fill your nose with the cornucopia of July scents

Country diary: fill your nose with the cornucopia of July scents

Wolsingham, Weardale, North Pennines: Smell can be so specific – the fragrance of meadowsweet blossom reminds me of my late aunt Pat

The hottest day of summer so far, in an exceptionally fine week for haymaking. Long windrows of mown grass pattern the meadow, shimmering in the heat haze, and the still, humid air is saturated with the fragrance of drying hay. A day to celebrate one’s sense of smell, especially now, when its loss is recognised as an early symptom of Covid. We take deep, reassuring breaths.

Fifty years ago, when I was a botany undergraduate, a lecturer taught me that a nose well-attuned to the odours of plant species could be a valuable asset. Compare crushed hedge woundwort (nauseating) with marsh woundwort (pleasantly fruity), he advised, and their identity will never be in doubt again.

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