The Sanctuary awakens

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Spring is raging right now. The unusually late cold snap had put things on hold and the sudden explosion of heat this week has taken everyone and everything by surprise. Two degrees last week, and days of high winds and torrential rain have been replaced by twenty-eight degrees and blazing sunshine.

Blossom is opening, bursting into life and dying – all at the same time. The magnolia has already been and gone – in less than a week. The cherry blossom is only now opening on the tree outside my window, but several days after the leaves began to appear. There is usually a good week of cherry blossom before the leaves start to unfurl. It is as if nature realises it needs to get a shift on. No time this year for a gradual and leisurely changing of the seasons. There is work to be done, leaves to open and glucose to be made. It’s time to photosynthesise!

It reminds me of springtime in Russia. It doesn’t last long. The thaw sets in, the snow starts to melt and spring happens in a matter of days. It is a thrilling end to the long winter months. I remember seeing butterflies flitting over swathes of primroses and the last drifts of snow, hidden from the sun – winter, spring and summer all at once.

I set out for the Sanctuary, for the second time this week. My first visit on Tuesday was to be with a work colleague. He had caught wind of my lunchtime escapes and was intrigued, so we arranged that I should show him around. What he didn’t tell me was that he had then emailed the whole Department, to tell them of the guided tour I was giving, and that I had a dozen people waiting eagerly to be shown around my own private demesne. Despite selfish misgivings, I was happy to share this magical place and delighted to see how the spirits of my companions were lifted by their visit to this enchanting place.

But today it was to be a solo trip. I walked down the path, past primroses and cowslips, keen to seek the shade and solitude. The heat was oppressive and the Sanctuary subdued. Geese were squabbling half-heartedly and a heron lifted itself wearily into the blue blue sky as I approached. It didn’t go far, landing on the branches of the now horizontal willow brought down in the February storms. Despite the trauma, the willow was coming into leaf – the life force unperturbed by its dramatic uprooting.

Walking past sprays of colour from the many and varied blossom and the most beautiful new green of the young leaves (is there a happier colour?) I came to a favourite bench. A bold robin flew into the tree above and started to sing –  tiny insect things danced on the still water, catching the light like dust, disturbed only by the fin of a large carp sliding slowly as if it too was feeling the heat. The long-tailed tits came through. They are nesting on the other side of the water in a bramble thicket – it won’t be long before their brood make a noisy and cheerful addition to the Sanctuary’s roll call.

I dozed a while, deliciously so in the warm air, before heading back into the world beyond the gate.

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