This May morning is warm, wet and still simmering with the energy of last night’s thunderstorm. Mountains of cumulonimbus tower above the valley. Lush, white-blooming banks of ramsons steam in the sun, smelling like garlic broth. Hazy clouds of hyacinth fragrance waft across the old railway line from patches of bluebells. A newly flowering hawthorn catches my nose with its ripe, lurid smell.
With a world of fresh vegetation bursting open, aromas are uncorked everywhere, and walking along a path is like sampling a menu of commingling flavours: peppery, citrusy, sappy, earthy. After a slow, arctic spring, the storm has announced a new season, and now everything seems suddenly brighter, infused with an almost tropical ripeness and vitality.
I find myself in a sliver of woodland which I often stroll through. Near the edge of town, and sandwiched between a cul-de-sac and a bypass, it is a bit of marginalia that, without any oversight I am aware of, has blossomed into an unlikely green hideaway. Spindly paths wind through ivy-covered beech, rowan, hazel and hawthorn, and an exuberant, tangled understorey of nettles, wild garlic, cow parsley and greater stitchwort.
The fresh foliage of the beeches fills the canopy with bright splashes of lemony light, and a wren fires out a deluge of notes from somewhere in the midst of it all, king of this little jungle, a temperate bird of paradise.
I am in the middle of a little green reverie when something makes me turn my head. There is a woman looking at me from over a fence belonging to a house next to the trees, and a man hovering in a doorway behind.
“Just wondering what you’re doing,” she says, in an accusatory tone. I give a terse reply, conveying enough annoyance for them to leave me alone. The exchange leaves a sour taste; a brush with the sort of suburban suspicion that assumes the motivation for standing in some greenery must be odd or untoward. I come away thinking, not for the first time, that we don’t place enough value on places that are nowhere special.
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