Wood anemones: The sun worshipping wildflowers that spread that a glacial pace

Wood anemones — woodland wonders.

Sheets of white wood anemones carpet the woodland floor beside the wild garlic and the bluebells. It’s a mad dash for these delightful, simple flowers — one of the most delicately pretty of the wildflowers of Britain — as they need to have flowered and wrapped up their year before the leaf canopy closes. Also known as the wind-flower, granny’s nightcap and, delightfully, moggie nightgown, it forms a perfect palette of colour to light up the bluebells.

The wood anemone is a faithful indicator of ancient woodland and meadows as it spreads at an astonishingly slow pace through its root structure — no more than six feet every century. It’s a sun worshipper, with the flowers drooping in damp weather and at night to protect the pollen. Some areas have purple or purple-streaked petals, such as Wayland Wood in Norfolk, setting of the Babes in the Wood legend.

Despite spending much of the first 40 years of my life on the back of a horse, eventing, hunting and point-to-pointing, my most serious injuries have occurred while fishing. Last week, as I was retrieving a fly from an alder bush, I tore a muscle to add to my other piscatorial mishaps, but received no sympathy from the River Itchen, who was in a contrary mood, keeping her trout to herself. She did, however, look exceptionally beautiful and I will soon be back to test her mood again.