Returning from a trip sailing around the Aegean, it was a surprise to find all the locals toned a deeper shade of brown in England than we’d managed under Apollo’s sun. The golden fields of wheat are on the cusp of the harvest, but, unlike many other periods of drought, the trees are remarkably verdant thanks to the wet spring. The countryside looks a picture. The joy of our garden has been returning to the lavender richly scenting the air and playing hosts to hundreds of noisy bumblebees. John Clare expressed the sound as ‘pipe rustic ballads upon busy wings’.

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Bumblebees, or dumbledores, are jovial, slightly incongruous insects with furry bottoms and, in many cases, military-style epaulets along their bodies. They appear to blunder their way from one flower to the next like a drunk man trying to get to a bar. For many years, scientists couldn’t work out how their wings could shift such a heavy body. Sadly, the bees are in serious decline, which is why my lavender this summer is such a remarkable sight. This must be a good year for them. There are 24 species in Britain, with efforts to re-colonise some of the lost fluffy balls of joy.

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