THE sweet aroma of garlic filled the dawn air, a pleasing and redolent odour, drawn from the very heart of the soil.

Dawn is compelling and often a time of great stillness, when hardly a riffle of wind brushes the high treetops, and where only the tumble of river and burn, and the songs of stirring birds seeps upon the consciousness.

I had only just arrived by the banks of the River Devon by Dollar, yet had become instantly smitten by its warm, welcoming hold.

The garlicky smell came and went, sometimes intense, yet intermittently weakening, becoming more subtle and lightly perfumed.

This natural fragrance emanated from a green-glossed covering of ramsons, or wild garlic as they are often known, that clung to a bankside.

The ramsons were not quite in flower, their white blousy blooms still tantalisingly held within their green sepals, yet heavy with intent to burst into bloom.

The plant is sometimes known as 'stinking nanny', which is a comparison I find inappropriate, as their fragrance is compelling and balm-like.

Ramsons thrive in shady woods, especially by rivers and burns, and other damp margins.

In continental Europe, brown bears adore eating their bulbs, which is reflected in the second half of their scientific name, ursinum, which is derived from the Latin ursus, meaning 'bear'.

This gives rise to two of its other common names, 'bear's leek' and 'bear garlic'.

The elongated, flat leaves are much sought after for those with a culinary disposition, and provide an aromatic garlic flavouring to salads, tasting best before the flowers appear, when they are at their most tender and verdant.

The riverside also brimmed with birdsong, including the simple yet pleasing melody from a yellowhammer, and the double-syllabic chirping of a tree sparrow.

Tree sparrows are not nearly as common as house sparrows and their numbers have fallen in recent decades.

A robin was also in full musical flow, raising his head back, and delivering a range of exultant phrases.

Nature was at work, and there is no finer place to appreciate its beauty, than down by the River Devon at dawn.