Around the 10th of May, I became aware of this extraordinary thing growing in a small corner of our little cherry orchard. I thought that I could detect something of a smell from it, and vaguely assumed that it must be some sort of fungus. It did not stay long in the state which you see in the photograph below - the next day it was a bit taller, then it began to flatten and collapse, and in a few days there was very little of it left.
Inevitably, I asked the others if they had ever seen such a thing, and both Bruce and Lesley had - only twice each, I think, so it is quite rare. It is a Red Cage Fungus, (Clathrus Ruber), and it is supposed to belong to pine and oak woodland, appearing in the autumn and winter - I suppose its late appearance in our garden might be due to the fact that our winter was so dry. Why it decided to emerge in a rough little bed where snowdrops and cyclamen had bloomed earlier, I have no idea. The two Bruce saw were equally atypical, being on the side of a "stony sentier".
I had noticed a few flies around it; they are supposed to be attracted by the smell and so spread the spores in the next suitable place they find - I hope that there will not be too many of them appearing around us next year! Not that there appears to be much substance that you actually could eat, and I can't imagine that many folk would even think of it, but Lesley's book reports that it is inedible!
With thanks to Lesley and Bruce for their information.