Mrs Llew looked out of our front window today, with a murmur of pleasure at what she saw. ‘Yellow flowers’, she said. ‘Crocuses? I asked. Yes, that’s what they were.
Actually she is the gardener in our household. She’s just not very good at remembering the names of flowers. I’m in no sense a gardener but I’m better at remembering the names of things that grow. Most people refer to the many plants which I recognise as ‘weeds’.
Suddenly, below our front window today: a scattering of yellow crocuses. I had noticed Spring bulbs pushing up green shoots all over the garden and that’s a happy sight. The sky, here in Oxfordshire, was blue and clear. All day.
The county to the east is embraced by the Chiltern Hills. As I wandered about a churchyard a couple of miles down the road, a helicopter passed high above me. I thought how glorious the countryside must look from up there. On summer evenings there will be hot air balloons, drifting and silent; and tiny private aircraft will buzz around as if in a 1930s novel.
Every year, as the first shoots of Spring appear, this churchyard is covered in snowdrops: in drifts among the gravestones. Could they be out already? The early appearance of Mrs Llew’s crocuses had moved me to go and look. (I drove there. In previous years I have gone by bike.) And yes, earlier than in most years, I found the first of this year’s snowdrops. Just a few for now.
In the middle of the churchyard there are two yew trees, each of which grows out of a mound, raised above the rest of the ground. That puzzles me. Perhaps these great trees were once sprigs growing from massive roots and stumps of yew trees long dead. Yew trees and religious sites go together, reference books say.
There were golden flowers here as well as snowdrops, though not many. I assumed they were very early celandines but my books prompt me to wonder whether they were winter aconites.
In a lane by the churchyard the old village pump stands. It’s locked now. The village has piped water. And happily, before we can blink, the nearby streams and culverts which feed it will be lined with primroses. While the road to the village will be bordered by wild daffodils.
A quiet paradise, not 40 miles from London.