Later It was a warm but overcast day. With my box of pastels and a sketch pad, I felt like Vincent Van Gogh going out to do a day’s work. Before I knew its real name, we (kids and I) used to call it Butterfly Hill, because in August particularly it was full of lepidoptera. The Chilterns are a range of chalk hills, but Lodge Hill is different, a carbuncle on the general flow of the undulations. Don’t think of a tall windswept place, but a miniature nature reserve. Its trees and shrubs give it shelter without destroying the views which stretch off to the Vale of Aylesbury in the misty distance. Such vistas you never see in Wycombe: here, when you stand on a hillside, you see across to the rest of the town on all the other hillsides. It’s a community poured into a series of valleys. Are we therefore "inward-looking"?
We found a spot in a little meadow spongy with mosses, bumpy with tussocks of ancient rabbit-warrens, enclosed with thorn-bushes. The butterflies were pursuing one another romantically, sometimes at risk of inter-racial relations. Do they dare, or is it taboo? The wildflowers were exquisite and often tiny, and I was reminded of some alpine meadow, despite having never been in one. There was wild thyme in flower, & a mint that smells like lavender when crushed, & yellow loose-strife, viper’s bugloss, stonecrop, ragwort and I know not what else including many I have never seen before. Elders and brambles were in flower, promising rich black fruit with purple juice later. The sloes are swelling green like olives. It would take a lifetime of study to know the flora and fauna by name and family, and all the details of how they propagate and why they are the way they are.
We sprawled on a rug, K with her crossword, till she lay down and snoozed, whilst I wondered what if anything I could capture with my box of colours. I stuck to the first thing I had noticed: a striped caterpillar which appeared to be reclining lazily on ragwort. Closer examination showed that it was munching furiously on bud after bud. I was able to draw the caterpillar easily enough but ragwort is not easy with chunky crayons. So I provide you with a photo instead, one which was taken within a few miles of Lodge Hill (though not by me!). The cinnabar caterpillar is striped like this, it seems, to warn predators that it is full of the ragwort poison, which is so strong that they have to make sure there is no ragwort in a field where animals graze.