Seasonal Sights - Spring
"Oh, to be in England,
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm- tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England - now!"
From 'Home Thoughts from Abroad' by Robert Browning
As March and April progress through the lanes of Stottesdon and the bare, winter skeletons of tree and hedgerow start to fill out with green again, we'll know that we've almost left the cold season behind.
The countryside is transformed and there is the promise of warmth and growth. A hedgerow bank bright with primroses, violets and wild strawberry must be one of the most evocative sights of spring.
There are many old wives' tales about primroses. Hung in a cowshed they will protect the occupants from the antics of witches, and children who eat the flowers are given the power to see fairies!
As you walk through the woods, copses and along the shadier lanes, you'll see the delicate, white flowers of wood anemones which flower in abundance during April. They are also known as Easter flowers.
The first butterflies of the year usually make a hesitant appearance, woken from hibernation by the increasing temperature, though first sightings this mild year have long passed. Very few of our butterflies spend the winter as adults but peacocks, small tortoiseshells and commas can usually be seen along the hedgerows by the end of April.
In the damper hedgerows, later in that month, you will find the lilac-coloured flowers of the cuckoo-flower, also known as lady's smock. In a few weeks time it will act as the food plant for one of our most characteristic hedgerow butterflies, the orange-tip.
This is the time that you will see most bird nesting activity. Wrens, thrushes, robins, blackbirds, linnets, tits and chaffinches should all have clutches of eggs by the end of the month and if it's very mild some birds will already be feeding hungry nestlings.
Listen out for the chiff-chaff on your Stotty Stroll (his call sounds just like his name), newly arrived from his winter quarters around the Mediterranean and Africa. Hopefully this month will also see the return of the martins and swallows - and if you are really lucky you may hear the first cuckoo, reminding us that summer really is on its way!
With our thanks to Liz Smith for this seasonal contribution