It was the end of summer and I found myself gazing at a lavender farm in the South East of England. The sight of this huge lavender field in Surrey came as a bit of shock. After all, this is one of the ‘commuter counties’ for London; an urban region where towns and villages are interspersed with horse racing and golf courses. The local countryside usually consists of grassy hills, agriculture and fragmented woodland. Yet here it was – a lavender field curiously and wonderfully out of place – like a picture of Provence.
As the road ahead began to bend, the full extent of the fields came into view. I was eager to get in amongst the flowers, to smell their fragrance and lose track of time.
It was the end of the season – just the tips of the lavender flowers still had their bright petals. The flowers further down the stems had already begun to dry and were giving off an intoxicating scent. I watched as butterflies drifted among the fresh and drying flowers.
A lavender field is a treat for the senses. Strangely, one of the first things I noticed was the noise. As I walked deeper into the fields, the more it enveloped me. The electrifying crackle of grasshoppers and constant buzzing of hardworking bees… It was a gentle drone that filled the air, like a distant orchestra. I later discovered that the lavender here is grown organically, with no chemical use… no wonder it felt so alive.
The fading flowers of late summer were clearly a delight to the mini-beasts. Diligently working their way among the lilac flowers were fluffy red-tailed bumblebees and a multitude of honey bees.
Gazing into the lavender my eyes began to acclimatise and I started to see the finer detail – and pick out the individuals producing the gentle buzz deep within the flowers.
I sat still between the low-lying rows of bushes. A family of mice began squeaking in alarm close by…. I stayed still and then noticed something glisten in the flowers. The sunlight had caught the back of a rosemary beetle.
A beautiful armour of green and pink; I had only ever seen them in books until now.
As I wandered back to the car park, I tried to savour every moment. The sweet perfume being carried on the breeze, the sound of children’s laughter and the beautiful humming of bees in the flowers…
The Mayfield lavender fields are open to the public. The ‘Folgate’ variety of lavender blossoms in late June / early July; whereas the ‘Grosso’ variety flowers in July / August. I will certainly try and return next year in July – when I am told the flowers are truly at their best.