Nature Notes: March 26th

I woke early this morning, but the day broke earlier. Now we are past Vernal Equinox the day-length is rapidly extending. Spring often feels as though we were poised on a hill-crest for weeks, just waiting for the ballance to tip, and now are racing down through the season, gathering momentum, cheered on my the ‘chiffchaffgreenfinchgoldfinchdunnockgreattit’ all singing at once!

The first blossom has burst in the orchard, an early plum or apple I think, but I will have to wait till the fruit sets to be sure. The pears will be next, clenched fists of silvery leaf relaxing into white petaled flower. Blossom is a fickle marker of spring. In the shadowed corners of the hedge it’s only just opening, but those boundary remnants in full sun are mostly full-blown, tattered and stained. One blackthorn I pass daily is already greening, petals falling and giving way, as through the growing leaf buds behind are pushing the spent flowers out of the way in their eagerness to reach the sun.

The catkins are over too. A few short weeks ago they stretched and jiggled in the first rays of post-winter sun, just before not-quite-spring. Quickly they colonised the hedges, and came to define the days. Their presence identifying the hazels from a fields distance, beaded curtains, dripping chandelier-like against the grey-brown and yew-shadows of the rest of the wood. Soon they filled the roadsides so that as the late-day sun, a weak yellow, caught them, the woodland edge looked like it had been spray liberally with watery school-dinner custard.
Then the March winds came.
Now the lambs tail catkins have all but disintegrated. The yellow colour remains; starry celandines and bolder dandelions, custard paint drops on the green verge, splashed on glossy green leaves. In place of the catkins is the swell of buds at twig-tip, on the point of unfurling and blending the hazel back into the green texture of the hedge and woodland edge.

Soon the greening of the hedges will block my favourite view of the day.

Each morning, and most afternoons (at least those when my journey home isn’t delayed by a visit to the allotment on my way past) as I drive up or down the hill, out of or into the village, through the hedge and over the other side of a very green field I see the dairy cows plodding in single file out of the milking shed, along the track, back to their grazing. 8.30 am, 5.30pm, every morning, every afternoon. I’m not sure the exact day it become habit to glance sideways just before the 30 limit speed sign, probably the first day of the year that it was still definable daylight when I got home from work, and the song thrush was still singing. But whenever it started, it’s become a fixed point in my day, and the sight of the girls’ gleaming piebald sides lumbering from barn to pasture gives a flash, a moment, of dependable rhythm in an otherwise disordered world.

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