Blackthorn Winter

It has felt like we have been poised on the cusp of the seasonal change for weeks. The cold weather we associate with winter lingered long into the 3rd calendar month of the year, and according to the weather forecast, hasn’t yet been completely banished to the mysterious artic north. But snow isn’t just a feature of winter, in fact, we are more likely to have snow in the UK nearer Easter than Christmas!

This year the snows coincided with the emergence of the blackthorn flowers. Some years the blossom of the blackthorn coats the hedgerows in such an abundance of white flowers that it is referred to as a blackthorn winter, but it is only when true snow collects on the branches that it becomes clear that the petals are not winter-white, but more the silky rich shade of good clotted cream. This puts me in mind of the fact the grass in the pastures will soon begin to grow with fresh vigour as the temperatures steady out to be constantly higher than 5*c; meaning the cattle can be put back out from the barns to graze. The new spring grass makes for rich milk and beautiful cheeses. In the woodland, despite the lack of canopy as the trees are still bare, the ground was less exposed to the build up of snow than the open fields, and many of the early spring flowers are equipped to cope with the fickle weather. Amongst the snowdrops that are fading now and the primroses just coming into their prime, swathes of green are forming; wild garlic, the foragers’ delight, perfect to pair with that new cheese and some simple oat biscuits.
The lambs too will benefit from the new crop of grass. It is a joyful sight to witness young lambs as they gambol around the field in small boisterous gangs, or snooze in a sunny spot beside the hedge as the blackthorn confetti falls. All that to come of course. Snow delays everything.

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