First Spring

Combination of warmth, dryness and lengthening days throws up the first signs of Spring’s arrival which in turn stirs us and the natural world into life once again. We identify the two types of snowdrops that are doing so well all over the garden. The simpler taller one seems to be ‘Mrs Macnamara’ (Named after Dylan Thomas’ mother-in-law), the more complex ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’ (after a committee member of the RHS) Earliest I’ve ever started the lawn cutting season was yesterday, the 23rd February. It looks better for it, on a higher cut, and will save labour later, but it still felt odd. The cuttings get fed to the pregnant ewes with their single lambs on our field. I then set to with trowel and bucket to weed the grass and other trespassers in the swathes of gravel around the house. Kim gets stuck into finishing her studio border one day, the semi-circular bank border the next, cutting back and clearing. In doing so she unearths, in a pile of moss dead leaves and stalks, a hibernating hedgehog! It stirs in its deep soft confinement but she carefully covers it back up. We are very happy to have this iconic creature on our patch. Having over the years created spaces and provided lots of insect and invertebrate cover to encourage them this is the first time we’ve evidenced a dormitory presence. I lift a stone by the pond and a young frog dives into the water. Driving home outside the village this evening another frog crosses the road in front of us. This is an annual mating migratory route, heading up from river to ponds, but I don’t remember it being as early in the year previously. We’ve been spotting barn owls too of late on our nocturnal travels and they’re always a beautiful entrancing sight. Also, out on the porch at night, we hear the tawny owls making their interactive presence known down in the north burn valley, a chorus of calling and answering. Our friends at Southridge are in the government’s Higher Stewardship Scheme (HSS) and nothing gives them greater pleasure than to plant native hardwood trees – hazel, alder, ash, oak etc – an ongoing extension of existing mature woodland in the steep valley of the southern burn that cuts through their farmland. The young trees are grown in a nursery further down the dale. Here’s our neighbour with his brother-in-law putting them in with stakes and guards amongst the dead fronds of last year’s bracken. A whole new ecosystem in the making and a heartening example of good husbandry & custodianship.

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