Spring in the valley

This morning there were just a few hours without rain, although the threat of heavy showers was never far away. The dogs and I had a long walk round Ferry Meadows, where young willows glowed a luminous green against the glowering leaden clouds, contrasting with the soft coppery foliage of the poplars. The river was full, the deep brown water swirling wildly through the arches of the bridge.

The air was filled with the gentle melody of willow warblers, the insistent call of a multitude of chiffchaffs and the fluty song of blackcaps. When we reached the lakes I was excited to see the first swifts of the year, freshly blown in from Africa, swooping aerobatically in the company of house martins. Swallows were also present, skimming low above the surface of the water in their search for insects.

We walked back through the woods, which are now carpeted with a haze of blue. The starry white flowers of the ramsons were peeking out, although their display will be at its best in a couple of weeks. The more open paths were studded with dandelions and daisies, surrounded by the dainty, soft blue flowers of slender-stemmed speedwell, a non-native species originating in Turkey, which finds the local climate much to its liking, and is a welcome addition to our flora, unless you aim for a perfectly green, weed-free lawn!

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