A Spring Walk in Cambridgeshire

A Spring Walk in Cambridgeshire.

Barton to Shepreth: 6 miles.

It’s been the coldest Easter in a hundred years.

Signs of spring are few and far between, the natural world seems to have put things on hold as the weather pours in from Siberia, chilling things to a near standstill.

I went for a walk to see how rural Cambridgeshire looks at the moment. It was unplanned so I made fairly sparse notes on my telephone as I walked. Hopefully they give a flavour though..

M11 roundabout to Barton: Lying water in the corners of fields, the ground is saturated after nearly a year of above average rain. Around the pools, Black headed gulls sitting on the brown earth, still in their winter plumage. Many farmers have delayed planting crops it seems. Either that or the cereals just aren’t growing. The large flock of field fares in a paddock would normally have sensed the warmth returning to the land and set off on their journey back to their Northern breeding range – Finland and Scandinavia.

Barton to Haslingfield:
Brown verges, grass killed by months of salt. Cracks in the road from the cold.
Set against the grey sky, the radio telescopes looking up to the heavens. A wood pigeon flys up to perch at the top of one, revealing the metalwork’s grand scale.
Refuse in the hedges, it seems the average litter lout survives off a diet of Macdonalds and red bull. There is little birdsong in the air. A green woodpecker in the distance “yaffles,” other than that just the sound of the cars going past.

Up above the village on Chapel Hill the last traces of the snow drifts are still melting away.
But signs of life, primroses flowering in the cemetary. At last some bird song; robin, gold finch, blue tits. Some calls I recognise as territorial, they havent given up altogether. Here and there a few hawthorn leaf bursts and even some blossom on a blackthorn. Some of our tougher hedgerow plants, lords and ladies, dead nettles and some cow parsley growing, reminders that life is still there to be found.

Haslingfield to Barrington:
The old cement works at the bottom of Chapel Hill are being decomissioned. Through the security fence I can see nature reclaiming the complex, plants growing on the old service roads. A cock pheasant’s call echoes around the old buildings. A red kite soars high above.

It’s trying to snow. My sister drives past and stops. She’d just seen one of the white pheasants that live nearby. I’d photographed one (badly) just a few days ago.

March13 003

Down to the river. A couple of wrens skimming the surface of the water by the mill. They didn’t seem to be fighting, maybe they were paired up, waiting together for the sun and light to return. (I’d never seen the mill before, one of the benefits of walking, you notice new things in places you thought you knew.)

Barrington to Shepreth, across the fields:
The river Shep running fast and high. Then the song of sky larks somewhere in the distance. Eventually I see them, high in the air, chasing each other around. All three of them singing as they did so for mates and for space.

It seems to me that, amongst the mud and cold, spring is trying to emerge. You have to look closely but it is there, biding its time. The winter will have to let go soon, and when it does all that pent up energy, sex and growth will explode gloriously, as it always does.

You can keep up to date with Spring here.



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