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Country diary: the insect mosh pit in the chalk scrub

Linkenholt, Hampshire, North Wessex Downs: The Sgt Pepper military yellow of St John’s wort rocks against the stiff purple mohicans of knapweed

I am in the garden, gently nodding along to the strains of Joy Division – specifically She’s Lost Control, being played for the fourth time that morning by my 18-year-old son. It is not until the synth snare veers off that I realise I’ve been bopping along to the stridulating chirps of an indie punk grasshopper. It is time to go out.

Between Sheepless Hill and Combe Wood, there is an insect mosh pit down in the chalk scrub. These areas of low scrub on the high chalk are quite distinct from the open down and woodland edge, and are more often mown out of existence. On this south-facing slope, taller wildflowers mingle with bramble and dewberry briars, the latter’s fruits ripening independently in blue, black, purple and red. The sparse, clouded drupes may look like inferior blackberries, but their taste is more reliably sweet. The scrub ends in a frothy, petticoat surf of fragrant hedge bedstraw at the fence. Inside, it’s a riot: a collision of colour clash and buzzy feedback, swaying in the hot breeze.

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