“You have to know the difference/ Between the roundabouts and swings /No matter what the distance/ Winter turns to spring”

  • Robb Johnson, Winter Turns to Spring

Winter is not yet passed: indeed, another freezy spell is on its way: yet there are glimmers now, and the odd miracle. On the West Bank terraces it plummeted to minus twelve degrees in the Big Chill. Venturing out this week to pay witness to the wreckage in its wake, it was a shock to find a full bed of leaf celery pushing energetically against its tidy fleece. A thin fleece, small protection for such tender stems. I can only imagine that the act of care in clothing the plants gave them some extra spur of encouragement to stick it out.

Our early encouragement is provided by the perennials, as ever. On the salad beds, the chives and burnet are already looking pretty lively, whilst around the place hawthorn buds crouch and haze catkins purr. Temperature is, after all, only one part of the equation: day length is another. We are now closer to the spring equinox than the winter solstice, and the plants know it. The first pea flower was out on Tuesday.

We have entertained Jack Frost and the Wild Western Wind at Hawkwood this last month, both bringing their particular brand of joy and havoc, but neither have done much to dry out the soaking fields. I have never known the place so wet for so long. The paths have lapsed into drawn-out puddles, whilst the cultivated soil is, or rather should be, off bounds to human tread, to prevent further structural damage.

Spring always comes burdened with heavy expectations, and its possible promise of a warm drying spell is the current great white hope. It’s a hope glimmering like a miracle some distance away yet, after all,  Spring is what hope does.

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