This morning, when I should have been getting ready to go to the dentist, I chose instead to inspect our very small back garden for signs of spring. And signs there were: the mint in its pot is beginning to sprout, the daffodils are growing apace. Our two snowdrops are looking very delicate and pretty and I promise to plant more bulbs in the autumn so they'll have some company next year. And the most exciting thing of all was one tiny purple bloom hiding under a shrub which was later identified as a crocus. This was great because I love to see them blooming in public gardens and churchyards; have always wanted some and now we have one. Since we didn't plant it the most likely way the bulb got into our garden was that it was dropped by a passing bird.
This is a real contrast with two weekends ago when we spent the weekend in Chesunt in Hertfordshire. We stayed in the youth hostel that is a spit and a cough away from the station and itself is right next to the Lea Valley Park. It was cold (for southern England). On the Sunday morning we left the hostel at about 9.30am dressed in all manner of clothing and were greeted with the sight of frost everywhere and the sound of silence. The park has many advertised attractions for walkers, runners, cyclists, anglers and birdwatchers and in good weather it's probably as busy Bluewater shopping centre but for us the attraction was the very lack of activity and the peace and quiet.
During the day we explored all sorts of places with names like Seventy Acres Lake, Fishers Green Lane, Hooks Marsh and Nightingale Wood and often we were entirely on our own. Occasionally we would meet a dog walker or have a chat with an owner of a narrow boat but mostly we spent our time lost in thought or admiring the views. Now and then I would catch the scent of Hawthorn blossom which is intoxicating and surprising because I have just read that it doesn't flower until May. I also spotted some Catkins next to the Hawthorn which was also a delight. But my abiding memory of that day was standing still and watching a duck waddle very carefully across a frozen pond. It wasn't in any hurry and it followed a wobbly course until it reached the bank on the other side and that was a great analogy for our day - we also took our time and followed a wobbly course around the park. This sketch is one I made the day before when we took refuge from the cold and sat in the Bittern Hide and watched the world go by.