The hardest winter in years, which brought a succession of snow, alternating with freezing rain has been followed by the most wonderful, albeit late spring. The days have been mainly warm or even hot and those few which have been somewhat blighted by a biting wind have still been brilliantly sunny.
Suddenly nature has caught up with itself and walking the dogs has become the highlight of the day. On the rapidly greening banks snowdrops have been crowded by burgeoning primroses, which in turn have not had time to fade before they have been outshone by glistering celandine.
The woods have been carpeted with great snowdrifts of white wood anemones, such as I have never seen before, whilst smaller patches of wood sorrel, their acidic lime leaves trick the eye into believing splashes of spring sun have filtered through the trees. And almost as you watch the mauve of violets is giving way to the intense colour of bluebells. The dark, bare branches of the larches, alone among our conifers to have a deciduous habit, are now covered with a delicate tracery of needles, echoed by the equally delicate tones appearing on the fragile tracery of myriad silver birches.
Every thing is fresh … clean … vibrant … and the dogs feel it too – they are keen to be out there sniffing and snuffling at every new scent, wanting to charge off every which way and chaffing against any restraint. Arnie knows he could pick himself up a nice fresh breakfast, but having eaten, experience tells me he would not return until the mood took him – a long wait or the risk of his meeting traffic on the road if left to return by himself. Not that staying in the woods for a few hours would be a punishment when they are so beautiful, but life goes on and there are other things to be done so he remains on his lead most days.
One day I looked up and there, just discernable, between the trees on the skyline, looking down at us was a small group of deer, silent statues, no doubt trying to avoid drawing attention to themselves, especially with the dogs beside me. More often, larger numbers can be seem loping along the paths and trails of the lower slopes, privately owned and rarely frequented by people. One of the does is pure white, appearing almost to glow softly against the black tree trunks in the darkling wood and it is often she who alerts the walker to the presence of the rest of the herd.
The dogs, who would almost certainly chase a single deer if they saw one seem almost bewitched by larger herds, perhaps in mute acknowledgment of their own limitations.
As one walks beyond the wood into more open agricultural country, again there is the appearance of snowdrifts, this time not wood anemones but great banks of blackthorn, which form much of the hedging surrounding the mainly small fields of the weald.
The dogs now tiring just a little are happy to walk close by me, leaving me free to enjoy the sunshine, bird song and the luxury of living in such a beautiful part of the world
Then home, either for a steaming cup of coffee and elevenses, or to an evening in front of a warm log fire, protection against the still frostily cold night air.