Yesterday we hiked up the hill behind our house.
I say hike because this crag is far from a leisurely weekend stroll: the first part sees the walker take on a steep, leaf-lined trail before meeting a welcome flat pasture; from there, a grassy cattle road is joined and soon he or she is pointed in the direction of what is essentially a cow-trodden hillside, probably a 45-degree gradient that leads up to the top; and finally they meet the fence, which follows the outcrop along to the ultimate destination (a bench which promises some respite, plus it being downhill from then on).
It was the first day I can remember in a dark few months that the mercury had reached, a little shyly, around ten degrees. As we walked, the outer layers I had on slowly peeled off, the fresh breeze on the hilltop cool yet softly whispering that spring wasn’t too far away. By the bench, little streaked shoots and bright buds stuck their thin fingers out of the soil — the first crocuses I’d seen this year.
Everything seemed greener in their presence.
On the way down, in between ruined walls and forgotten houses, two clumps of snowdrops stood, alone, as if staring each other down from the opposite side of a buried living room. Again, I hadn’t seen any this year, and was surprised to stumble upon them quite by accident (quite unlike the popular snowdrop festivals that see Scottish stately homes sell tickets for the privilege of walking their paths, crowded with the delicate white flowers).
And on the way down the hill, something even better, that completely dwarfed the attempts of the two clumps of snowdrops having a domestic a bit further north — an avenue, decorated on either side with galanthus. It made me wonder, was this once the path to the interred town, and did the inhabitants plant the bulbs there?
It’s a lost past, so we’ll never know.
The wonder only became more pronounced as we descended back towards the town, where the street of snowdrops opened out fluvially into a carpet of crocuses. Bright purple, there, right beside the road. Three adults — two parents and their older child? — passed us smiling, I thought, at the mutual discovery we’d all had of these little signs of spring.
Back into town we wandered, stopping for a coffee, and marvelling at the gentle heat in the wind. Despite not properly having snow here, the emergence of tiny, seasonal flowers like snowdrop, crocus and daffodil remind me that it nevertheless has been a fairly long winter where I, without quite realising, may have joined the local animals in a well-needed hibernation.