April in Kent and London 2010. Spring has arrived at last!
Springtime is here at last after a long, cold winter. It has been one of the snowiest and coldest winters for years, but now, finally and a little late, spring has arrived.
- The daffodils are here
- The chiffchaffs have arrived from Africa
- The lambs are in the fields
- Lesser celandines
- Early spring flowers
- Sticky chestnut buds
The daffodils are here
At last! It’s April 2010 and finally Spring is here! The snowdrops have been and gone and the daffodils have come out at last . They are so much later than last year because of the cold, hard, snowy winter, but they’re here now. They seemed to come out in just a few days, as soon as the weather got a bit warmer towards the end of March. The London parks look great with carpets of yellow and almost every suburban garden has a daffodil display. They are on the verges and alongside the roads as you drive into villages. The small varieties like ‘tête à tête’, which normally come out before their larger cousins are flowering alongside the bigger daffodils. The wild ones which usually flower later than the garden species are out too. It’s as if the daffodils have been waiting for a signal and all burst into bloom as soon as it came.
The chiffchaffs have arrived from Africa
I heard the first chiffchaffs on Easter Sunday, 4th April whilst visiting Scotney Castle in Kent (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-scotneycastlegarden). I can’t believe those tiny birds have flown all the way from North Africa to be with us for the spring and summer. They might be insignificant to look at and quite difficult to spot – though easiest to see at this time of year before the leaves are on the trees – but their song heralds the start of spring to me. A few days before on the 1st April I saw martins flying over Lullingstone Park, Kent. I only saw three, but they are the vanguard of many more which will be here in England throughout the summer. I also heard and saw so many skylarks. They might be here all year round, but I associate their song with the warmer months. They were in the grass, maybe preparing nest sites, and then they rose up out of the grass singing their distinctive song. Hearing them again makes me think of the wonderful “The Lark Ascending” by Vaughan Williams (http://www.last.fm/music/Ralph+Vaughan+Williams/_/The+Lark+Ascending ).
The lambs are in the fields
The newborn farm animals are now out in the fields. We’ve seen cows with their calves and there are now lambs everywhere in the countryside. Some are quite big, maybe Christmas lambs that farmers kept in the barns until the weather improved. How come such skittish, delightfully silly creatures which run and jump in such a carefree way turn into sober, rather boring sheep? There are still some ‘fat’ sheep around, but there are many fields with lambs skipping around, shaking their tails and rushing back to mum for a feed.
The celandines have appeared all over the place, in the woodlands, in the ditches and on the sides of the roads. I have been waiting for them since the end of February and they finally showed their faces at the end of March. They are a very underrated flower, I think. I love the way they open in the morning and close up in the late afternoon or when the rain comes. They open up so wide on a sunny day as if trying to soak up all the sun’s rays. The poet William Wordsworth says it so much better in one of his three poems about this flower, ‘The Small Celandine’
“There is a Flower, the Lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, at the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun itself, 'tis out again!”
I see that the flower’s name comes from the Greek ‘khelidon’, meaning swallow, as they were thought to herald the arrival of the swallows in spring. I haven’t seen any swallows yet, but they can’t be far away.
Early spring flowers
The wood anemones are starting to show themselves. Again I seem to have been waiting so long to see them because the start of spring has been delayed this year due to the extended cold winter. There was quite a display of them on the banks of the River Medway near Penshurst in Kent. They like to come out in early spring before the leaf cover of the trees overshadows them.
The primroses are out in the hedges and ditches. They are not as prolific as I remember in my childhood in the 1950’s, but are still such a beautiful spring flower, so reminiscent of the English springtime.
The violets are here as well. They make such a lovely display in the field as we walk from Lullingstone over to Shoreham, Kent. They are nearly a month later than last year, but they have survived the harsh winter. The purple colour is subtle across the field, but then there are the vibrantly colourful clumps on the slope alongside the path.
Sticky chestnut buds
The sticky buds of the horse chestnut trees are bursting into the beginnings of the large hand-like leaf groups. The blackthorn is in blossom. Slowly the weather is getting warmer. The sun’s rays are stronger. The air is filled with birdsong - chiffchaffs, skylarks, woodpeckers, nuthatches and blackbirds, thrushes, tits, finches and robins. The days are longer. The countryside is starting to green-up with a light, bright green of new growth. I do love April in England. William Henry Davies expresses it so well in his poem ‘April’s Charms’
“When April scatters charms of primrose gold
Among the copper leaves in thickets old,
And singing skylarks from the meadows rise,
To twinkle like black stars in sunny skies;”
There is the promise of bluebells, ransoms, wild garlic, cowslips, chestnut tree ‘candles’, the hawthorn blossom, swallows and swifts all coming soon as May approaches.