Wednesday, 19 February 2014

When trainspotters go green

Snowdrops in my local churchyard

This year, I won't be able to just hide indoors and write! I've got to get outdoors and keep my eyes open. I'm writing a new book (more details next week) and, like Wildwood, it is very much rooted in the countryside. More than that, it's particularly concerned with the changes that take place in nature throughout the year.

January brings the snow,
makes our feet and fingers glow.
February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again.
March brings breezes loud and shrill,
stirs the dancing daffodil.
 April brings the primrose sweet,
Scatters daises at our feet.
May brings flocks of pretty lambs,
Skipping by their fleecy dams.

(from The Months, by Sara Coleridge)

Did you know there's a special name for that as a scientific study? Phenology is the discipline of recording periodic natural events (the first cuckoo-call, the last leaf-drop, the day the hawthorn blooms) over many years. The Japanese have been doing it from the 8th Century out of a fascination with cherry-blossom. In the West its invention is attributed to Robert Marsham, who kept records of the "Indications of Spring" on his Norfolk estate in the C18th for 62 years. It's a nerd thing, obviously.

Obviously, phenomena vary from place to place - up here in the North of the Land of Mud, we're at least a couple of weeks behind the balmy (if sodden) South for spring flowers of every type. But the more observations you can record, and the larger the area they are recorded over, the broader and better a picture you build up of the natural cycles. This is particularly important when it comes to Climate Change, because we can look back over decades and centuries and see the shifts.

As a writer, what I'm interested in is the detail. so I've started to keep an unscientific little database of my own, recording what I see this year.
Yesterday, for example, was the first day that I swear it felt like Spring :-)

Okay, so I love snowdrops.

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