There are moments – split seconds – worth recording in memory that one could never on camera. One such was given to me yesterday, walking home from church alongside a hedgerow. Up to the surface popped what some call a dunnock but I still think of as a hedge-sparrow. All resplendent in best spring plumage, it had in its bill a down feather from a pigeon.
And then we parted.
Those eggs will be cosy, the chicks warm and snug till they grow their own feathers, then off and away!
A miner turned gardener taught me the old Yorkshire adage: After breakfast, walk a mile, after dinner, rest a while. I was reminded of this the other morning when I met a friend in the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral. I knew she had had knee surgery but was able to congratulate her on how well she was walking. ‘Oh, yes, thank you. It’s going well. We walked back from Chartham the other morning.’
Chartham is three miles from the city centre.
This column tends to celebrate the natural world, but time today to praise the work of orthopædic surgeons and all the scientists, engineers and technical staff as well as the nurses who enable them to do such fine work.
Three miles from Canterbury in another direction, another fine walk.
The new LED lights along the college pathway do hide the moon light, but the path across the grass was sure to be slippery, so under the lights it was. Nevertheless the owls were calling across the campus: watch out rabbits!
Maybe watch out frogs, too. Where the path runs along back garden fences there was a clamorous croaking cantata. There must be a few ponds around there, and why not dig one ready to invite amphibians to live with you?
Our pond is not huge, 1.5mx2m, but we always have a few frogs in the warm weather. it is traditional that Mrs T worries that we won’t have any spawn – Miss T likes to have some in school – and, as the tradition has it, a fortnight of talking to work colleagues convinced her that we would not have any.
And, as tradition has it, there are a few mounds of black-speckled jelly balls in the pond, letting the sun do his work.
OK, so this looks like a spindly, bare, whippersnapper of a tree …
Naburn Primary School children with one of their new apple trees
… but pupils at two York schools have been imagining what it will grow into, and how they will enjoy the fruit it will bear in the future. And they have been doing so through poetry.
The ‘Poetree’ project was dreamt up and delivered by Vikki Pendry of York Edible Schools (Y.E.S.) and me. Two local schools were offered two apple trees each (courtesy of Y.E.S.), and an accompanying poetry workshop from me.
Driving along certain motorways in England is rarely a pleasant experience, but sitting in a cabin collecting the charges for using the M6 Toll road must be at least as deadening to the spirit. Yet the other day the man in the cabin took our money – the exact change – and said, ‘Thank you, super duper!’ Just the little extra humorous touch that made a difference to our enjoyment of the next mile and more.
You can sit in a little cabin and go the extra mile.
Some lover of nature, humanity, God or all three has set a clump of snowdrops between the fast Eurostar line to France and the old mainline from Ashford to Folkestone. Just a glimpse as we speed by, most will not notice, I too often miss them – but there they are, and beautiful they are, even from a distance. A promise that will be kept.
These, with their rubbish, were at Aylesham station, not far away.
The scattering of white feathers showed where a black-headed gull had been killed; the corpse lay a couple of feet away, the breast picked almost clean by the second bird, the sparrowhawk who has become quite familiar in this part of town. Satisfied with its meal, it had flown away already.
The third bird was totally unconcerned by this drama, and a real surprise on Abbot’s Hill. Sitting on a stump nearby: a smart, robin-like creature which was indeed a stonechat. I don’t recall seeing one locally before but he was singing as if he owned the place and had no intention of going west to the old brown hills. I feel sure he will though.
It’s a warm wind, the west wind, full of birds’ cries; I never hear the west wind but tears are in my eyes. For it comes from the west lands, the old brown hills. And April’s in the west wind, and daffodils.