Spiders and small boys
Spiders and small boys
A couple of weeks ago we attended an orchestral concert in the magnificently ornate Leeds Town Hall. In the middle of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, a small spider gently lowered itself down from the high arched ceiling, passing close to the shoulder of the first violin and landing on the platform to be lost to sight. What a length of fine silk it must have spun from that sugary liquid in its own body in order to make that long descent. Calm and apparently quite unfazed by the crashing sounds reverberating round it, it went about its business, and, at this
time of the year, spider business is to be on the move and active.
On several mornings during the past two weeks we’ve seen the evidence of that activity across doors and windows and draped across garden plants highlighted by early sunshine or decorated with dewdrops – work of the common garden spider, one of the orb-web group which make the beautiful round or oval webs. Less welcome, perhaps, is one of the house spiders – that large, long-legged creature that disrupts our evening’s television, startling us as it makes its confident way across the carpet. It’s probably a male in search of a mate, or perhaps it’s just looking for a nice dark corner to spend the winter. And, of course, there’s the spider in the bath. It’s not there deliberately but has accidently fallen in and can’t climb out. In our house we are fond of spiders and generally supply an escape route of toilet paper draped up and over the bath edge. Spiders are helpful creatures, eating flies and furniture beetles and, of course, we should also be mindful of the old saying: ‘If you wish to live and thrive, Let the spider run alive.’
The first half of October this year, damp and not too cold, has been especially good for fungi. Out neighbour’s lawn has a grand stand of shaggy ink caps, and to enter any local woodland is to be in for a treat. I took part in a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust fungus foray in their Adel Dam Reserve adjacent to Golden Acre Park. It’s mixed woodland with plenty of logs and tree stumps left around to encourage insect life and also, of course, good for fungi. Conditions were perfect, misty and moist, and our foraging party contained several small boys – always a good thing as their energy, sharp eyes and competitive spirit make them excellent spotters. Every ten yards or so we seemed to find something new, pausing to investigate and hear an identification from our expert leader. Many species were quite common but no less attractive for that. I particularly enjoyed rings of clouded agarics whose pale pearly caps shimmered in the dim light under the trees. One lad found a huge shaggy parasol, standing at least ten inches high and with a brown, slightly matted top that looked just like a miniature parasol from a posh beach resort. We also found a few wood blewits – browny-mauve above and with characteristic blue gills. Delicious fried with bacon, said our leader, but the finder looked a little pale at the idea of a blue mushroom!