Country diary: blackthorn winter has begun to loosen its grip

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Wolsingham, County Durham: Pearly buds have opened, smothering blackthorn twigs in a froth of blossom. Spring’s brief intermission is over

In The Generation Game, a popular 1970s TV show, winning contestants watched desirable prizes pass by on a conveyor belt, but afterwards only took home those they could remember in 45 seconds. Recalling the pageant of spring flora – a prize for getting through a long winter – sometimes feels like a similar challenge, especially since the floral conveyor belt accelerates as temperatures rise and days lengthen.

The earliest flowers soon fade from memory. When I walked this footpath two weeks ago, yellow star of Bethlehem that bloomed in March was already hidden under an aniseed-scented canopy of sweet cicely foliage. Lesser celandines and violets were reaching their peak, toothwort and butterbur had just shouldered aside last autumn’s decayed leaves, and drifts of wood anemones and ramsons were about to grace the woodland.

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