Having just driven hundreds of miles of the length and breadth of England, I can confirm that, in spite of any wintry surprises that the weather might yet have in store, as far as the earth is concerned, spring has definitely sprung. I know those roads so well now, that I can asses the progress of the seasons by the flowers that bloom in individual gardens and hedgerows. Amongst the first harbingers of spring are a drift of snowdrops near Ashbourne in Derbyshire. They are planted on a south-facing slope in the shelter of a wall and, every year, seem to be amongst the very first to bloom. Quite often, their green and white freshness is lost against the last of the snow, while, half a mile away in a north facing copse, another carpet of snowdrops still waits for the first touch of the sun.
By the time these woodland snowdrops are in bloom, there are already great swathes of white across the country, brightening the shadows. The purples and sulphurous yellow of the crocuses come next, and the blue stars of glory-of-the-snow. By the time the daffodils are opening in my village, there are pansies brightening the borders and the earliest blossom is starring dark, leafless branches.
A tree-covered hillside that epitomises the clichéd ‘sea of green’ in summer and which wears deepest mourning through the winter months… now blushes rosily as buds form on bare branches. Leaves unfurl on rose and clematis, fields are beginning to glow with the brilliant yellow of rapeseed and daisies are scattered everywhere.
Fields that have borne the greyish tinge of winter are suddenly fresh and lush, with the unmistakable green of spring. Birds are nesting, and, here and there, the first tiny lambs explore a brand new world.
Home again, I look out at the mud patch of a garden, decimated by drought, snow and a digging dog, still waiting for me to find the strength, time and energy to dig the flower-beds that I miss. Its single flower-bed is bare for the moment. My roses are yet to waken. But, for once, I don’t mind. Beyond it are the fields and trees… and spring is happening. Why worry about a few feet of garden when there is a whole world of life and beauty out there to savour?