Nature notes from Cranham Common

No more EU, no more referendum, for now.

On a very different tack, or since I’m on land not at sea, on a very different track – the track across the local common, with its glorious sense of space. The valley to Painswick opens to the south and beechwoods lie behind me and to my left and right. And underfoot the closest to a carpet of cowslips that I’ve ever seen. No fertiliser touches this land, and currently it’s grazed on a rotation basis by a few contented Belted Galloway cattle. I can see them often from the bedroom window, beyond the cricket field, each with its single wide white belt.

Last year cowslips just touched the land, now they’ve almost taken over, and I’ve never seen the like. They’re small and they droop, gently, and there’s a kind of mute acceptance, a contendness of place, about them. It’s almost as if they’re apologising for being there, for holding on to one stretch of country when once they covered the fields and meadows of England.

Spring has come suddenly this year. The chestnuts were late, and even now the ash is holding back, no leaf green yet emerging from the buds. But we’re high here, exposed to winds, and Spring is just a little behind the lower country. A few daffodils survive, and the bluebells and wood sorrel are abundant, the celandine reclusive, and the wild garlic anything but. They’re not quite in flower yet, but the smell in places is all-pervasive. Driving back from Oxford last night, passing through woodland, the smell invaded the car, almost as if we had a well-seasoned Sunday roast in the back.

On my morning run, down by the stream beyond the common, by the delightfully named Haregrove Cottage, the birds were in chorus, and it was 9 o’clock – four hours past dawn. How many decibels higher will it be tomorrow when we walk out at 4.30 on an organised dawn chorus woodland excursion? It amazes me how the birds launch into their chorus almost as soon as they stir, sing their hearts out, and then subside into a more occasional chirping and chirruping as the day takes hold.

And here I am writing. Outside she’s mowing the lawn – she turned down my offer. But you can clip the edges she said. So that I will do…

A sceptred isle

I’ve just watched Kipchoge win the London Marathon in the second fastest time in history. About 1 1/2 hours faster than my best time! I’ve run five and I’d love to do another, but I guess I’m getting just a little bit too old….

(I was out running this morning, up on Painswick Beacon, with a view west for sixty miles, well into Wales. And there were carpets of bluebells, wood sorrel hiding beneath the trees, violets and cowslips underfoot as I crossed the common, and even the golfers were friendly…)

Back to the London Marathon, I love the fact that it brings the big wide world to London, an incredible international event, and won by Boris Johnson’s favourite nationality, a Kenyan.

This is the world I want to be a part of. Do we start with Britain, then admit, yes, we are Europeans as well – and then reluctantly accept that we might just be citizens of the world – or indeed deny the fact – claim that it’s enough to be English. English, note, not British.

Or do we start by asserting that we’re citizens of the world, and let everything follow from that. It’s easy to say that Britain should come first, especially if we grew up when there were still great swathes of pink (the old empire) on maps of the world. But we do well to remember that we are exceptional as British not as lonely flag-wavers but in the context of the big wide world. Blinkers do not serve us well.

All our yesterdays are no substitute for all our tomorrows. This sceptred isle is part of a continent, and we’d do well to recognise that.

Paths not taken (Richmond Park)

The cold sun cheers the soul and the hard ground make good terrain for running, so I was off for a long and steady run round Richmond Park yesterday, with the jackdaws and rooks and jays all busy, and many people walking and chatting, and the occasional too fast cyclist on the Tamsin Trail, and all those wonderful tracks, it felt like thousands of them, made by man and deer, scooting off among the long tufty grass and the dead bracken and bog.

And all those quiet places too, where the tracks take the deer and rarely take us humans, though mad runners like the wilder ways.

Several times I stopped and wondered which path to take, each time a path not taken, and in Robert Frost’s words, that could have made all the difference. Each turn dictates all later turns, and along each path different thoughts, and different times for getting back to the carpark, and getting back home – and for lunch. And every other junction, another decision, and in one, and in every, instant, your life can – and will – change. Avoid any notions of permanence! We are all creatures of serendipity. So keep your mind empty – something I’m very bad at doing (one reason why I meditate!) – let the dao¬†take you where it will, and best to ride it, and not seek to break the flow.