April walks are a bagatelle, new turns in the weather every half hour. This can be exciting, as I found this morning when I thought I’d take a unadventurous walk on the wild side, just to see what was going on.
I headed for the sea, with the woods to follow. On the lane that passes my house, I saw a baby rabbit, two cats, and a befuddled bumblebee, staggering in flight through the cold air. Then, a magpie nest, with the magpie’s tail protruding.
The sky was blue as I walked across green fields, but when I reached the cliffs it had hazed over. The sun, breaking through the cloud floor, laid a silver runway across the sea. I felt a few drops of rain.
The ravens’ nest was unmade, last year’s foundations scattered. I’ve seen them nest there every year for almost 30 years. Nothing has changed except the cycle of the climate. I’m pleased when I see them farther down the cliff path. Two, mated for life. They’ll be nesting nearby.
Bluebells and wood anemones just starting to carpet the woods pic.twitter.com/HW2IOwT8Dn— bmr0014 (@BeverleyMiller5) April 7, 2019
When I enter the woods, I see that, here and there, a white ramson flower is open, standing tall amongst its broad leaves. The ramsons don’t yet smell of garlic. Sheltered bluebells are opening, too, and ferns unfurling. A wind off the bay would “cut you in two”. In a week’s time, the light in the forest will be purple with bluebells. Purple Haze.
High in the canopy, rooks and their relations sound like a schoolyard of boisterous children let out for break. Jackdaws come rocketing in on the wind, and you’d wonder how they can brake before their necks are broken.
Quarrelling crows make extraordinary noises and this wood’s not even a rookery: rookeries, we know, keep humans in well-insulated houses awake at night and, sometimes, the 4.10 shotgun is reached for.
Beside the woodland path, the penny-sized heads of the wood anemones are closed this chill morning, petals wrapped around the yellow anthers in the cup of white. They’ll open when there’s warm sun. Likewise the wood sorrels occupying a single, mossy stump alongside the path. Their white, bell-shaped flowers, amongst shamrock-like leaves, close before twilight, and at any sign of rain or even cloud.
Wood anemones just looking amazing today! pic.twitter.com/JxD1Z4tUnM— Ranscombe Farm (@Ranscombe_Farm) March 30, 2019
Rounding a bend, I see, ahead, a shameful testimony to human passage, a discarded paper handkerchief. It’s the disrespect that is shameful, that we can be so insensitive. Thrown-away tissues in pristine places is a worldwide phenomenon, there is always one. Perhaps it’s because they are ‘biodegradable’ — people have become more aware and plastic bottles etc are no longer discarded in natural places. Do those responsible think the tissues will, of their own volition, waft away, out of sight and biodegrade inconspicuously? Smart tissues? Tissues smarter than themselves?
Whatever the reason, no matter how remote the trek’s location, a very visible discarded tissue will be encountered en route.
The irony is that few, except valderee-valderah walkers and dedicated outward-bounders, ever reach these places.
Can they not tuck their used tissue in a nook or cranny, somewhere behind a stump or in deep undergrowth?
Near home, I divert to a small wood to see the casualties of last winter’s storms. Some trees lie flat, trunks like semi-deflated barrage balloons; others are dead but standing, propped against one another, snapped like chopsticks, tall and thin because their lives were a struggle for light.
To walk the path between them of a March evening was to walk through a bombed cathedral, all silent and dead. But it is April and, this morning, life revives in a second and I’m in the middle of it as a gale comes charging through the chopsticks, a blinding rain before it and suddenly the wood is a deafening arena of bucking briars and lashing branches and trees creaking as if they’ll come down on my head.
Scared, I look for shelter, but where? Behind a tree? Leviathans lay felled around me, and what tree, however big, can safely withstand this blast? But to run through the noise and bone yard, is that sensible? It’s the only course!
Heart in mouth, I run, demented, and gain shelter under a rhododendron at the Kissing Gate beside the lane. I make a note, but the rain reaches the notebook on which I’m scribbling, and the wet page comes apart.
Onward I rush for home, the wind behind me and sleety rain peppering my back. Ten minutes later, the sun comes out and I venture onto the balcony, with a cup of tea.
The sun is blinding, and silvered ivy shivers on the trees. Now, as I write, hailstones lash the window beside me. But it’s April and the sun will soon appear.