A Series of Sorties to Assorted Spaces

Sam and Amy have rotten colds, and last night Sam didn’t sleep well. He spent much of the night in our bed and from about 4 o’clock he seemed to be feeling pretty playful, at least, every time that I was close to dropping off he decided to give my nose a bit of a tweak. So when Amy and Ben both woke at around six, I was deputised to take the boys out in the double buggy to see if they would go back to sleep. (Amy sensibly opted to go back to bed with an audiobook.)

It took a fair bit of faffing to get them wrapped up against the cold, strapped into the buggy and ready to go, but as we set off the sky was almost as cloudless as it had been when I first peered around the curtains and concluded that an early morning walk wasn’t too bad an idea. Once again a fierce northerly was blowing and although the sun was shining it didn’t feel much like spring. By the time we reached the centre of the village, stray flakes of snow were whizzing past. Turning to look back I found that a great grey behemoth had snuck up on me and swallowed half the sky. The village was quiet, except for the fact that Nick had opened the Butcher’s. He looked like he might have been hard at work for some time already.

On Stankelt Lane, Sam finely went to sleep and on Bottoms Lane Ben followed suit, his arms wrapped around Sam. By now it had stopped snowing and blue sky had been restored. However, we were now walking into the teeth of the gale. The only reminder that spring is here was a pair of Buzzards flying together overhead. I stopped briefly to watch their rapid progress northwards to Eaves Wood and Sam woke up. We arrived back at the house in the first of the day’s many hail showers.


Angela was all in and Sam was exhausted, so after breakfast I took all three children out to hopefully give both of them a chance to get some more sleep. Ben was adamant that he wanted to take his bike so we chose our usual weekend walk to Woodwell. The wind had lost some of its edge, but shortly after we set off it began to snow again. Naturally the kids were thrilled.

In Bottoms Wood the sun was shining again. The garlic smell of the Ramsons is noticeably stronger each time we return.

The advantage of the bikes is that it’s the kids that have to wait for me (well on the downhill parts anyway).

Whilst the kids fished for pond weed at Woodwell, I splodged about in the soggy ground by the outflow stream looking at the golden saxifrage. I shall have to look closer next time to find out what flavour it is: opposite leaved or alternate leaved.

Amy pointed out some frogspawn in the pond. I’ve seen newts here occasionally but never frogs, so I was quite surprised.

We left the bikes and scaled the cliff path to take a little circuit along the cliff top and back round below them to collect the bikes.

Back in the village, we had arranged to meet Angela at the Coffee Morning in the Gaskell Hall. These take place almost every Saturday morning and although each week a different local organisation or charity is responsible they invariably comprise tea, biscuits, a cake stall, a raffle, tombola, bric-a-brac and second-hand books. This week the selection of books was particularly appealingly and we came away heavily laden. When we left to come home, it was snowing again.


After lunch, despite Angela’s best efforts, Sam couldn’t settle down for a nap. By now he must have been deeply exhausted after a poor night and two very brief naps in the morning. So I put him in the pushchair and headed out again. Once again it was snowing and fairly cold, but thankfully Sam was asleep almost as soon as we were moving. I set-off along a path insinuated between the boundaries dividing back gardens. I saw a goldcrest here on Friday but, save for a hardy pied wagtail, the birds seemed to be in hiding today.

The snow was short-lived and entering Eaves Wood in bright sunshine, like the man in the parable of the Sun and the North Wind, I felt compelled to disrobe, or at least to take off my hat and gloves and to unzip my jacket. Looking back through the trees I could see that the tide was in on the Bay and the sea was a band of shining silver. But further out from the shore the shadow of a heavy black cloud gave a second starkly contrasting band of darkness.

The trunks of birch trees glowing in the sunlight produced a similar effect against the pregnant gunmetal clouds massing in the eastern sky. Naturally, those clouds presaged another flurry of precipitation, a hail shower that I could hear hissing through the tress before it reached me. This was the heaviest yet and for the first time today the ground was briefly white over.

On the bottom edge of the wood I noticed that the Jew’s Ear fungus on a tree stump that I photographed back in January are now merely dried husks. It occurred to me the this blog is my own idiosyncratic phenological record, a narrative of seasonal renewal and decay, of comfortingly familiar visitations, but also, hopefully, of discoveries and new routines. In that spirit I ought to report that the Primroses in Eaves Wood are now beginning to flower, and that the berries on the ivy are now almost all of them ripely black (or blackly ripe?).

This final foray ended, as it began, on the ginnel that connects Cove Road and Emesgate Lane. The walls here are thick with ivy, but are mostly denuded of berries. So I was struck by these thickly laden branches:

  We seemed to have been subjected to an overly literal interpretation of ‘climate change’ today with the weather never settled into any one mode for longer than it takes to notice the transition. But with the warmth of the returning sun, the birds were back to play: I watched a pair each of finches green and gold, was serenaded by a robin, and judged by a magpie magisterial on a high branch. Well, why not? People seem to be very quick to pass sentence on magpies: if the boot was on the other foot what would the verdict be?

Sam slept happily on, unperturbed by the rocks and tree roots his buggy bumped over, the stops for photos and bird-watching, or the perpetually changing weather. He was still sound when we arrived home, but the moment I stopped he woke up. How does he know?

A Series of Sorties to Assorted Spaces

One thought on “A Series of Sorties to Assorted Spaces

  1. Hi Mark..
    My buggy pushing days are now behind me, but I now just what fun they can be.. your post made excellent reaing this cold Sunday morning. I was pleased to see you use the word ‘ginnel’.. it is not used as much now.
    I wish you and your family all the best for Easter.


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