Walking to the Village School – January 2011

keys in treesThe first day of the New Year and we tramp through the village, past the Dutch barn and across the fields to Abbotts Ann Down for a late lunch with friends.  The landscape is bleak at this time of year – low grey skies and bare, skeletal trees.  There is very little, if any, colour around.  Our return walk is ‘sold’ to the Tribe as ‘a terribly big adventure’ when we realise that it is completely dark outside and we have perhaps outstayed our friends hospitality.  We borrow a couple of wind-up, eco-friendly torches and set off.  The littlest member of the Tribe on foot, is tired and we sing songs in an attempt to raise spirits and hasten our march home.  It works.  The eldest decides to make up some scary stories as we try and avoid tripping up in the dark – these torches are not great in these conditions.  Walking past the sports field however, is in fact quite spooky, particularly with the shadows of the overhanging trees.  Fortunately no one else is about.

With the start of a new term our walks to school are fewer, partially due to a pretty wet month, but on one morning as we do walk to school, the Tribe spot a couple of dead frogs along Mill Lane.  Apparently this winter has not been good for frogs – according to the organisation, Pond Conservation, ‘tens or hundreds of thousands’ of these amphibians have died in the UK.  And it seems that we are not alone – this is a worldwide phenomenon.  There does not seem to be a definitive reason for it at present.  On a rather happier note, late one afternoon, we see four beautiful swans flying over Cattle Lane.  They divide into pairs and appear to follow Pillhill Brook from on high.  Stunning.

rose hipsThe final day of the month, and given the name of this column, I feel that I should make an extra effort to walk the Tribe to school – it’s mild and it’s not raining.  We don wellies and I feel rather like a packhorse with the newest member in a front pack and a pack on my back full of school shoes and water bottles.  Now I remember why I’m not walking quite so frequently.  As we go down Mill Lane it feels good to be walking despite my load.   Stubby, pale green catkins are beginning to appear on hazel trees and the keys of trees that have long since lost their leaves are dancing in the breeze.  The keys that are joined in a straight line belong to the field maple – the classic ‘helicopter’ that the Tribe love to play with.  The Ash has bundles of single hanging keys that spin down to the ground – these appear to be plentiful right now.  The Tribe spot the first snowdrops poking through carpets of leaves under the hedgerow – the snowdrop season officially starts on the 26th of the month.  New life is returning to our natural world – our plants obviously think that winter is over.  After all the snow and freezing temperatures at the end of 2010, I think that a bit of warmth, sunshine and colour will put a spring in all our steps.

Mother of the Tribe