The upper reaches of the River Teign are draped sinuously along the northeastern slope of Dartmoor. Here the river has carved out a deep wood-lined fissure in the granite, a secret world that is flooded in late March by a glorious ocean of blazing daffodils.
Such a display perfectly illustrates the transformative power of plants. Wildflowers may not provide the structure or scale of an oak tree, but their fleeting contribution to the colour palette and mood of a landscape is no less significant. Their ecological contribution should not be overlooked, either. Witness this sleepy spring hoverfly, drunk on nectar, dressed from head to wing in daffodil pollen grains.
I was only dimly aware of the existence of daffodils as a wild flower, thinking they were a phenomenon particular to just one or two woods, somewhere like Gloucestershire. There is indeed an area known as ‘the golden triangle’ in Gloucestershire, famous for its wild daffodils, but a few other remnants of daffodil country are scattered about, of which the Teign Valley is one example.
For whatever reason, wild daffodils grow beside the upper Teign in spectacular abundance, yet in adjacent woods and valleys they are few and far between. A beguiling, beautiful mystery, solvable perhaps (does anybody know the answer?) but still another demonstration of how the unknown far outweighs the known.