It’s morning, not long after sunrise. I wind down the hill from East Bergholt, and disappear down Tunnel Lane to Flatford. Climbing out of the car at the garden, I am struck by the peace of the place, no noise but birdsong... I love the quiet, secret feeling of early morning.
The sun is just struggling free of the Constable clouds on the horizon, gilding the tops of the trees above. A greater spotted woodpecker swoops, calling, into the uppermost branches of our old poplar and basks there for a moment, a tantalising flash of red against the thick twigs.
As I enter the garden, I see shy creatures fleeing the field, the grey flash of a fieldfare, the russet underwing of a redwing, and blackbirds, a little slower to vacate the rich pickings of the turned earth. Always intrigued by the green, watery world of the woodland beyond the garden, I pick my way through the boggy patch at the far end, and am surprised by no less than 3 tree creepers flitting between the huge old alders and picking their way up the bark with delicate curved beaks.
Snowdrops are coming through in drifts – they never fail to fill me with bright hope and a sense of expectation, so brave in the icy air, innocent green and white.
It won’t be long now before the landscapers arrive to begin work. Selfishly, I want to wrap the peace and silence around me like a thick quilt, have it all to myself..... But once the diggers have been and gone, how wonderful to be able to share this sense of wonder with all comers – watch the leaves unfurl and the flowerbuds open their petals on the spring air, exult over the first queen bumblebee who pays a call.
I open the gate, step into the garden and look around me with a mixture of excitement and trepidation…. You see, I’m the new Project Officer for the Flatford Wildlife Garden-to-be, and this is my first sight of the garden….
The garden is in the grip of winter now, the trees a tracery of twigs against the pale sky, the ground bare and scoured after the weeks of snow cover. The old tea garden roof has collapsed under the weight of a venerable wisteria, its tortuous tangle of vines stark in the sharp winter light. The garden has an air of world-weariness; fatigue…. And yet…. Everywhere you look there are the tiny spikes of snowdrops just breaking through the cold earth… If you stop and listen, you can hear long-tailed tits calling to each other with little chiming cries from amongst the birch and alder catkins overhead. I gasp with delight as a kestrel shoots past me, dropping over the boundary ditch and into the green world of the wet woodland beyond, carrying some prize in its deadly little talons.
The garden may be sleeping, but everywhere there are signs of life stirring, carrying the promise of spring and of a new beginning for the weary old garden.