As I sit writing in the morning sun at my bench down in the far corner of the back garden, amongst the tall docks and nettles, a red admiral (left) settles on the ground by my feet for a moment before flying up to the nettles then a comma (below, right), in bright, fresh condition - those tattered looking edges are the way it should be - lands on a nettle near my right elbow. The dunnock, as usual, gives its hurried torrents of its bright song.
The caterpillars of both the butterflies will eat nettle. The comma caterpillars are more often to be found on hops which is occasionally also a food plant for the admiral caterpillars.
It's time to cut back this little meadow, which is, in fact, no more than a patch of nettles and docks no larger than a small kitchen. I cut it down with shears then run over it with the lawnmower to gather up and shred the trimmings.
I'm careful with the mower: I notice one small toad and one medium-sized toad hop away from me as I mow around a pile of bricks.
What a transformation the cutting back makes: I can now think about putting in some wildflowers as ready-grown plants or about sowing the bare patches with grass seed (a mixture which doesn't include the vigorous perennial ryegrass).
But I've had value from those docks and nettles: I feel I've learnt a lot from the six pen and ink drawings I've done of them over the past seven weeks. I've left plenty of nettles for the butterflies, and for me to make soup from, in the hedge bottom.