May Day beneath the hawthorn blossom
As I wrote in my previous blog, although my residency is mainly based around Forestry England land, I’ll be sharing snippets from my daily wanderings through the woods and forests around my home.
I live on the border of Hampshire and Sussex, an area bursting with deciduous and coniferous woodlands, timber forests, ancient woodland and all kinds of different habitats. The Ashford Hangers are my favourite place to walk, but today was the first day of May, so I decided to go for a gentle ride to Hawkley and back on Roxie, a beautiful cob belonging to the family who own the livery where we keep our horse.
Roxie has recently been injured with back-end muscle damage (I think - equine anatomy is very complex), so at the moment she’s only able to walk, rather than trotting or anything faster. I love a good gallop where I can, but I’m also very happy to synchronise to the mood of the horse I’m riding, to slow right down and absorb the beauty of my surroundings. It was warm and peaceful for this morning’s ride, and I loved listening to the birdsong and watching the newly grown lime-green leaves arch over the bridle path, a green tunnel undisturbed by motorised vehicles.
Along the verges, the wild garlic flowers were in full bloom, great swathes interrupted now and then by erupting bluebells and greater stitchwort. The swallows, back from warmer climes just a few weeks ahead of the swifts, had settled into their summer habitat, although they still looked slightly worn out from their long journey. They danced through the air above us in search of invertebrates for breakfast.
'Don't cast your clout until May is out’ goes the old saying - suggesting it’s best not to discard your winter clothes until the first hawthorn mayflowers are in bloom. Typically, as I write this in my studio with a hot cup of tea, a light rain has started to fall outside. I love a country proverb, but thank god for raincoats.
This weekend I’ll be celebrating a belated May Day at Butser Ancient Farm, where their Beltain festival is almost sold out! I’ve been volunteering at the festival for around 13-14 years now (and while I worked there, of course!) and it’s the highlight of my year. Each spring as part of the ancient Celtic festival, the Butser team build a huge wickerman out of locally sourced wood, then burn him to the ground to welcome in the summer months. There’s cider, vegan burgers, music, dancing, local crafts and traditional skills - I can’t wait!