On my way to visit and old woollen mill today, I was completely taken back by the miles of yellow hedges that divided the sloping rectangular fields of this part of Wales.
I stopped the car and stood staring at the never ending avenues of what is commonly known as Golden Rain, or to give it its proper title, Laburnum anagyroids. It was indeed, a magnificent sight. Magical too, with a sort of Medieval feel about it.
I had never seen so many Laburnums in all my life and after what my father told me, I didn’t care to ever grow one myself.
‘Pretty but poisonous,’ my father said as I ran towards one, ‘every little bit of it!’ he shouted after me.
‘How can anything so beautiful have the potential to kill you?’ I asked.
My father smiled at me then up at the overhanging flowers that looked like golden rain. I closed my eyes as I waited for an answer.
‘The Blue Ringed Octopus is a beautiful creature, is it not?’ my father said and I nodded, ‘but it also has the potential to kill you. Therefore, we should have respect for such animals and plants, and pass on the teachings of their potential danger. They too have a place on this planet.’ I remained silent because I knew from experience that my father would continue.
‘Open your eyes and I shall show you the most dangerous part of this tree!’
I did as I was told and watched my father pick up a stick and point to the flowers.
‘See the little peapods?’ I nodded curiously, ‘each pod contains cytosine, a quinolizidine alkaloid which has a similar effect to nicotine and if you eat a few of those, you will become ill. Possibly die if there is no charcoal to soak up the poison!’ He looked down at me as if waiting for a reaction but I stayed perfectly still. You see, I had no idea what he was talking about; I was just seven years old after all.
‘The peas in those pods don’t just jump into your mouth as you pass by,’ he said shaking his head, ‘you would have to take them yourself so you would have only yourself to blame. Now I have warned you!’
I wanted to smile but thought better of it. I understood the seriousness of the conversation and have always remembered that warning.
I was fascinated to find out why someone had planted miles upon miles of this golden rain. Were they grown for their beauty? Or was the wood to be chopped up and used to make instruments such as flutes and recorders, just as my father had told me.
On my journey back to our home for waifs and strays, I was consumed with thoughts about the these golden trees. At the mill, I had briefly discovered that the area was brought under Anglo-Norman control in c.1100 and that later, probably between the years 1223 and 1556, there was a large Estate, known as Golden Grove. Perhaps that is where the Golden Rain came from. Perhaps!