What a strange period this winter, and March in particular, has been! Like many others, the recent cold spell at the end of February – the "Beast from the East" – caught us out. The condensation outlet from our boiler froze up and we were temporarily left without heating. While attempting to sort the blockage out, we discovered a blackbird's nest in the hedge – complete with three eggs. The cold weather meant that the nest was thereafter abandoned, but, none-the-less, our feathered friends must have been nest-building during the weeks of February and early March! They seem to get building earlier and earlier each year.
There are implications in this for anyone who is responsible for the up-keep of hedges – as are we in the woodland. It is clearly not possible to cut hedges during the worst of the wintry weather but any work required has to be done before the birds begin nesting. That leaves us with a very small 'window of opportunity' within which to do the work, since part of our task is to encourage as many birds as possible to take up residence. We certainly don't want to be like someone I met, who enjoyed telling everyone about his surprise to find a bird looking at him as it sat on its nest while he cut away the front of a hedge – in June!
As I write this, the temperature has been a balmy 10 degC – although the weather forecast promises more cold weather this weekend! In the woodland, the early growth has resumed and the snowdrops, that began emerging at the end of January, are now a truly impressive show. The increased number of snowdrops throughout the woodland is the result of the volunteers, year after year, lifting the plants once flowering has finished, dividing the clump and then planting the bulbs separately, so that, over the years, each bulb itself will form a clump. The show of snowdrops in the Scots Pine plantation (opposite to the container) is getting better, thanks to the efforts of Tarvin Scouts, who helped with the division last year. Thank you, Scouts!
Other signs of spring are clearly evident. The hazel catkins are much in evidence, although their pollen has now gone and the embryo nuts will be imperceptibly developing alongside the bursting leaf buds. We also have a few very early cowslips lifting yellow heads for bees that have more sense than to come out on cold days. The daffodil plants on Hockenhull Lane, planted by Mona Thomas in memory of her husband Meurig, are bulking up well and, at one point, they had a good crop of buds developing. However, it seems that this is the third successive year when most of the buds have been removed before the flowers emerged – and before we all could get the benefit of the wonderful show of flowers that they would have made. Perhaps someone felt that their right to enjoy the flowers was much more important than ours.
Today, the Co-op had bunches of daffodils at £1 a time. If the person who took the flowers would like to come and see me next year, I will provide them with the pound coin required to be able to buy a bunch of their own. And that will let everyone (especially Mona) enjoy Meurig's flowers where they were planted. It doesn't seem much to ask.