This easter we are gifted with a heatwave.
It’s 21°C, and people and plants are starting to wilt. I imagine my overseas readers laughing at this, but really, 21°C in April is a heatwave in this part of the world!
I was busy weeding the herbaceous border, then it got too hot. The sun was beating down on my back as I dug, boring into my winter-cold body, warming my core.
I stopped, sat in the shade for a while, then decided to go for a walk in the cool woods.
My regular route is rendered unfamiliar by the warmth, the hint of summer in the air. It’s so early in the year that the leaves aren’t all the way out yet, so the shade is dappled, sun filtering through to warm the carpet of spring flowers below. Birds sing in the canopy. I reacquaint myself with the sound of various warblers, swallows and house martins, welcome migrant voices joining the familiar chorus from great tits, robins and blackbirds.
Above my head, in the canopy, insects buzz.
There is traffic noise in the far distance, and the sudden harsh discord of an ice cream van doing the rounds of the village.
I sit on a piece of limestone in the deeper shade of a yew tree, to write down some of the ideas whirling around my head.
I look around and everywhere is the power of spring. Ferns uncurl, buds burst, leaves expand, flowers turn their heads to the sun.
A dog, out for a stroll with its owner, growls at my unexpected presence beneath the yew tree. It’s owner is too polite, or disinterested, to ask what I am writing. We talk about the weather, and she moves on.
The limestone is lumpy. Uneven rock sticks into my flesh, finding the tender spots from yesterday’s cycling, first bike ride of the year leaving the imprint of the saddle.
So I carry on, feet crunching on the leaves of autumn which still lie on the woodland floor, patiently waiting for fungus and earthworm to turn them to soil, to recycle them into plant food.
Several times I hear a noise in the undergrowth, loud, like a deer or some other large animal scuffling through the leaves. Each time, it is only a blackbird raking through the leaf litter for insects, a sound so much louder than its creator.
Sycamores dangle lime green flowers below their darker green newly emerged leaves.
The insistent repetitive tweet of a nuthatch catches my attention, it’s high in an oak tree, but I can’t spot it. The oak branches are still bare, just a yellow-green haze where the buds are swelling, usually the last to burst into life, the herald of summer.
Blue splashes are just starting to appear among the green leaves; a foretaste of the carpet of bluebells to come. They join the wood anemones, violets and all the other flowers of spring; racing to make their mark before the canopy closes over and they are plunged into shade.
The trail narrows and I brush against the softness of newly emerged beech leaves. Wild strawberries flower along the edge of the path.
I emerge at the estuary edge, saltmarsh almost covered, tide high this close to the full moon. Back into the sunshine. The sky is hazy, hills of the Lake District hidden from view.
The tide pushes dog walkers up to the railings; familiar paths submerged beneath the gently lapping wavelets.
I stroll along the coast. The sun burns into my winter-pale skin, but I am shielded by sun cream and cooled by a sea breeze. Even though I am high up the estuary, the breeze and tide bring the smell of the open sea, the dreams of the ocean.
The tide has pushed flounders in to the flock of fisherman, waiting at the estuary edge with baited hooks and bated breath. That tide has now turned.
I sit again, this time on a flatter, more comfortable piece of limestone. The tide rushes out like a river toward the railway bridge, draining away, returning to the real sea. The distant cries of gulls mingle with the voices of walkers along the embankment behind me, the sound of cars, a distant plane.
I move on, following the tide. It moves faster than I do.
A tendril arm of the sea snakes up the saltmarsh to my feet, disgorging its water back into the bay, wet mud at the creek edges glistening slippery in the sun.
I turn inland. A steep narrow lane curls up past ancient farm buildings, fringed with wild garlic, first flowers starting to show, white bundles of stars above glossy green.
I feel sweat on my back, wishing I’d done the walk the other way round, down the sunny steep lane, back up through the shady woods. That is summer thinking and I’m still in winter mode, where what matters is the wind direction and strength. Walking into a cold wind on the estuary edge is not fun.
I stand in the scent of garlic, in the shade of an old drystone wall and realise that I have taken off the armour of winter, literally, my muscles have relaxed over the warm weekend.
Then I head for home, past gardens on the edge of the village. A lilac tree is starting to bloom. The last few daffodils stand proudly among the pinks and forget-me-nots. The blackthorn and damson blossom have faded. Spring has moved on a chapter.
I walk into my garden and I swear, in the hour or so I’ve been away the plants have grown. Back home to a seat in the shade and a cold drink.
I hope you are enjoying the weekend, wherever you are!