I started working at Woodlore in 2006. But since then I’ve not been able to work courses during the early part of the season due to other commitments. I think I’d forgotten just how much I love spring.
Watching summer mellow into autumn is a different affair, the last flush of colour before you wake up one morning and know the summer is over. The day when it seems the birch leaves have turned yellow and started to drop almost overnight; it always makes me feel a little sad. I love winter, and I love autumn but the end of the summer means the end of the course season and a few months until I’ll be back outdoors properly again.
Spring is a season of firsts – the first Woodlore course, the first butterflies and bluebells, the first bumblebees. The woods are so alive with the hustle and bustle of life that it’s impossible to ignore. The changes are so much more tangible than in other seasons too. For two weeks I watched buds on the beech tree near the store tent swelling almost imperceptibly, then burst into a riot of vivid green in the space of three days. The leaves start thin and crinkled, like a butterfly that’s just emerged from its chrysalis, but quickly spread into a beautiful emerald canopy, until the whole wood is dusted with a delicate sprinkling of green. It looks good enough to eat – and some of it is – nettles, hawthorn, dog rose shoots, ramsons and beech leaves are all spring delicacies.
Have you ever noticed how the birds sing a different song just before it rains, and another just after it stops? Or the sudden stillness followed by a darkening sky and a strengthening wind that presages the onset of another shower, the smell of rain on the way? It’s like being let in on a secret when you start to notice these things. It makes the woods seem more friendly, more reasonable than when the weather appears to be nothing but a random succession of rain and hail and sun – weather tantrums.
April has been just as it should be weather-wise – fickle and wet. We’ve had days that went from a freezing cold night with a hard ground frost, to T-shirts and shorts for a few hours followed by a black sky with thunder and some of the biggest hailstones I’ve ever seen. The inky sky makes an incredible contrast with the acid green of spring growth, it’s a scene I always try and photograph, but one that seems reluctant to be committed to something as permanent as a memory card. Everything about spring is fleeting and hurried – it’s so easy to miss things, to suddenly notice a tree nearby is in full leaf amid a carpet of flowering bluebells and think “when did that happen?!”
It’s hard to believe that by tradition it’s summer already – May 1st has been and gone. “Mayflower” or simply “May” is another name for Hawthorn – it was used to make garlands at Mayday celebrations. The blackthorn is in blossom, as is the Crabbe Apple and the Bird Cherry, but maybe there’s time for one more first before summer gets underway properly – the first Mayflower.
– Sarah Day