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It is now week 17 and for some reason I’ve been in a reflective mood. When I started my walks, I thought that lockdown would last for a few weeks, or a few months at most. Now, I can’t believe that I’ve done the same walk at about the same time of day every day for 16 weeks. Boring? – definitely not. So much has changed in that time. The bare trees and spring flowers have been and gone, the trees have grown leaves, flowered and are now fruiting, spring flowers have given way to summer blooms which are now fading, the birds have built their nests, raised their young and seen them fledge; and I have learned so much by taking the time to look and listen. I started the walk for physical exercise. I have come to realise that I have gained mentally as well as physically. I have found nature to be more soothing than I ever imagined possible, and so nature has become for me a great healer and de-stresser. I have made new friends along the way – I see the same few people quite regularly and we always stop for a chat. What joy the last 16 weeks’ walks have brought me.
So, what is happening in week 17? The alexanders’ stems and seeds have gone black and don’t look too nice, but the birds will soon use the seeds as a welcome source of food. The ivy in the hedge, that was cut in week 8, has started to grow new spring green shoots – what a great contrast to the dark green of the rest of the hedge. The pink and white striped small bindweed is appearing all over the place, and the tall spikes of one of the willow-herbs, maybe great willow-herb, are starting to open their bright-pink flowers with pure white centres. Some enterprising soul has gone along parts of my walk with scissors or secateurs and cut off the long, straggling, and very prickly lengths of brambles, that had appeared from the hedge to comb the hair of the unwary. This act of ‘trimming’ was very welcome after the recent rain. However, it didn’t stop me getting wet trouser legs from the long grass that was weighed down by water droplets. The traveller’s joy (or old man’s beard) is now open wide and festoons the trees with its pretty flowers, and delights me with its delicate perfume. Have you ever noticed how sweet it smells?
It is the end of week 18 and I realise that it is over a week since I wrote anything in these notes. My only excuse is that I’ve had a lot on my mind recently and I’ve tended to use my daily, early morning walks to think things through. The result is that my mind has been elsewhere, and I’ve not been looking at and listening to what is around me.
I have noticed that the young burdock plants that escaped the verge cutter have opened their mauve flowers, as have the teasels high up on the bank. I’ve found another clump of burdock elsewhere, which is thriving. The nettles in one of the verges that was cut in week 8 are now rejuvenating and starting to flower – isn’t it wonderful how nature recovers from man’s destructiveness? The flowers and tendrils of traveller’s joy are appearing as a blanket covering more and more hedges and trees; I’ve never realised how extensive it is, until the flowers appeared. The cuckoo pint (or arum or lords-and-ladies) are starting to turn orange, where they are in the sun, and are still green, or a green and orange mix, in the shade. Birds have been few and far between and are much harder to hear because of the traffic noise. The rooks have been much quieter and less numerous this week, and there have been some days when I haven’t seen or heard them at all.