Spring is in the wings

What a difference a month makes – at the start of February, we were admiring a snowfall, and now at the end we’ve been basking in improbably warm sunshine for several days.

There is an indefinable sense that things are on the change – winter is receding fast and spring is just around the corner. New birdsong lifts the heart even on a dreary day, and the hard green hazel catkins of December have grown and softened into pale lemon and old gold tassels. Look carefully, and you can see tiny red female flowers on the twigs, waiting for wind-blown pollen.

Hazel catkins

The warmth has really brought on the signs of imminent spring. Hedgerows that were brown a week ago are studded with sudden blackthorn blossom and hazed in places with new green leaves, and hedgebanks are starred with the pale beauty of primroses, whose name means “the first rose” – here in Devon we’ve been enjoying them for weeks. In the local wood, the first spears of wild garlic are emerging: promise of a harvest in a few weeks, and bluebell leaves are racing to get a head start over ferns and garlic in the early sunshine.

No matter that the clouds and rain are forecast to return for the next few days – this glimpse of things to come has reminded us that the season is turning inexorably.