Sunday, 31 March 2019

The Greening

Every year at this time everything in nature is suddenly green. You step out one morning and notice that the grass needs cutting and you can no longer see through the hedge. Once it's happened you can't miss it, but catching it while it's at it is another matter. That's one of the reasons I go out for a walk every day.

And this particular walk started near Stevenage in Hertfordshire. Believe it or not this little pond is less than a hundred yards from the busy A1 road, but despite the lorries roaring past this is home to some rare newts and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. 

Luckily we'll be following some quieter by-ways where the blackthorn is still blossoming and a few trees are trying to produce their leaves. 

New leaves, all innocent and green, put forth by that toughest of woodland characters, the hornbeam tree. Its wood is so hard that it's also known as "ironwood", and only used for specialist jobs like making wooden cartwheels or handles for tools. There's a lot of it  growing in the ancient woods of Hertfordshire. Those leaves won't stay as bright and fresh as that for long, but make a pretty sight for a while.

Once you get an eye for it you can sometimes pick out the remains of boundary banks and ditches within the wood. For our woods were once intensively managed to maximise their usefulness. You can even pick out the lines of old roads too - parallel ditches that are set rather wider apart than the footpath or track you're following.

There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

                                                 from "The Way Through The Woods" by Rudyard Kipling

And here they are: the thin anemones of Kipling's poem, though these were growing on a roadside verge rather than in the wood itself.

You'll often hear people say that if you want to see the landscape properly then the best thing is to go for a walk. Utter rubbish of course - if you want to get everything into perspective you need to stop worrying about the map and sit down! Better still lay back and rest your head on the rucksack, shut your eyes and just listen. There's a skylark singing away, a distant pheasant crows and the soft breeze strokes your arms. 

We need to follow the road through Rustling End and we seem to have hit the rush hour.

As I crossed the fields from Langley I could see this farmhouse shining white amongst its green fields and just had to come and get a closer view.

Then we're back into deep countryside again, following a very minor stream beneath the trees. Suddenly there's a sweet, familiar sound that I've not heard for several months. I scan the bare branches but can see nothing there. Then, there it is, a Blackcap, which has the splendid Latin name of sylvia atricapilla (that's a small poem in itself). It's probably recently flown in from Spain or North Africa.

The rumble of traffic tells me that I'm getting near to the A1 road and the town of Stevenage once again. I'm looking up at the blackthorn blossom against the blue sky because looking down is truly painful here as it's inexcusably become a place for fly-tipping. Inexcusable because we're only a short distance from the council's official re-cycling depot.

Life doesn't have to be like this.

Walker's Log:

     Start: Stevenage rail station 10:30
     End: Stevenage rail station 14:20
     Distance walked: 8.1 miles (13 Km)
     Notable birds: Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Jay, lots of Buzzards.
     Mammals: rabbit, hare.
     Butterflies: Peacock, Brimstone, Comma.
     Churches: there's a small chapel at Langley which is now converted to a house.
     People with dogs: 0 (!)
     People just enjoying a walk: 2
     Runners: 1 
     Cyclists: 1
     Horse riders: 2

Take care.


  1. It seems you can't go anywhere these days without finding some dumped rubbish. That aside, what a delightful walk! I was in the woods yesterday and saw my first wood anemones of the year.

  2. I love the 'greening of the shires' and even though I watch with a keen eye it is so difficult to actually catch it.
    The new chartreuse coloured leaves are natures Spring magic.

  3. It really is a lovely area and I can see why you enjoyed the walk so much. What is it with people that they wilfully trash a wonderful landscape such as this, or even an urban street for that matter? We are going to choke on our own garbage.

  4. Rush hour, ha ha! One of my favorite things about spring is all variety of shades of green, the ones you do not see at other times of the year. Every year i think, who knew there were so many?! That last photo is sort of creepy, sad for the little girl who grew up and literally ditched her dolly.

  5. That new green in spring is my favourite time of year!

  6. Oh what beautiful spring photos, and I'm glad there's such variety. Love the one of the farm house, and wonder if it's a modern building or really antique.

    1. It's early seventeenth century according to its entry in British Listed Buildings and is largely unaltered since that time.

  7. Such a beautiful walk. Love the emerging green, and I can almost hear those birds. And then there's that doll. Life really does not have to be like this.

  8. A beautiful stroll through a gorgeous landscape. Always an eye sore somewhere along the path. It is mind blowing that people dump their trash anywhere they please with no regards for anything, it's a big problem here too.

  9. I know just what you mean about the greening suddenly seeming to be there, almost without warning. It's been like that here this week too.

  10. I would not have wanted to leave the walk...there are two or three of your shots that so make me want to get out and be in the woods. Just miss doing that so much...and Roger just is not steady enough to go any more.

  11. Thank you for sharing another of your wonderful walks.

  12. Hi John - love your photos and your notes on your walk ... as too reading Kipling's poem ... and why oh why do people leave rubbish and litter about - I want to take it to their home and see if they live like that. Still I will now dwell on the beauty of Spring as it starts to fulfill its promise of rich greens ... cheers Hilary

  13. Another delightful walk John. Spring is such a special time of the year, especially after a long cold winter. I found the image of the doll rather poignant,to think it was probably precious to a little girl at some point ✨

  14. I can't wait for the green! That old farmhouse is lovely!


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