Originally published April 24th 2009
It is Spring again. The hawthorn is green and the buds on many of the trees can be seen breaking out into assorted shades of green. In spite of all the sharp frosts and cold weather the flowers and plants seem to have grown up overnight with daffodils in bloom and the tulips already revealing their assorted colours. For thousands of years people have celebrated the end of Winter just as they have always given thanks for the harvest in the Autumn.
Many favour the Autumn when the leaves change from green to the many shades of brown. However, as well as the beauty of the countryside there are many reasons why Spring is thought to be the best time of the year. The warm sun brightens the days that quickly lengthen to give us the chance to pursue again the many outdoor activities we enjoy.
Did You Know?
This was always a very busy time of the year for everyone. We would just be coming up to the time for spring cleaning. Throughout the Winter most houses only had a fire regularly in one room. Usually it was the living room, although they had to light one in the scullery when it was necessary for cooking and washing etc.. On Sundays the better off might have one in the Front Room or Drawing Room if they were having friends or relations to tea. Before the cleaning could start the chimney had to be swept and if the fire had been smoking, as it often did if a lot of wood was used or the wind was in the wrong direction, then the ceiling would need a good scrub and a fresh coat of whitewash. With the fumes from the oil lamps and candles making it worse it usually did anyway.
When he arrived the Sweep hung a sheet over the fireplace that he usually held in place with a couple of bricks on the mantelpiece and two or three more round the hearth. No matter how careful he was when he pulled the brush down the whole room was invariably covered with a fine layer of soot and however particular you had been when you covered everything up, it still seemed to get onto everything. Often into the next room or even up the stairs. The smell was always right throughout the whole house. Cleaning up as best he could the Sweep would swallow his obligatory cup of tea, put his money safely in his pocket and gather up his brushes, rods and other gear. Then, throwing the bag containing the soot over his shoulder he would hurry off to his next customer.
Once the mess had all been cleared up householders no longer had to worry about maintaining coal stocks and lighting fires to keep warm. Those families that had the means continued to buy small quantities of fuel through the summer months to stockpile for the following year. Coal and oil were sometimes the biggest expense families had. When the cleaning started there was a job for everyone and even the youngsters joined in, especially when all the mats and the stair carpet were hung over the washing line and given a good beating to get the dust and dirt out. The paintwork was all washed down and cupboards and ‘glory holes’ cleared out. At least one room would usually be in need of redecorating. To make things more difficult this was the time father was beginning to get busy with the digging and planting on his allotment.
It was always a big help when the weather was kind and the sun shone. If February had lived up to its ‘Fill Dyke’ reputation then warm dry Spring days had everyone’s approval.
It seems that the sunshine and showers not only bring forth the spring flowers, it energises and puts sparkle into all our lives. The days quickly grow longer and almost without notice the frost and forecasts of snow seem to slip into the past and we find ourselves with a completely different daily routine. No more dark cold evenings huddled round the fire indoors. Instead, there is a whole host of activities for us to enjoy outside as we observe the effect the changing season has on nature.
Everything is bright and fresh with new life springing up among the plants and animals that are all around us. The spring lambs are getting quite big now and the birds are starting to collect food for their fledglings. Do you ever wonder where all the different species suddenly appear from at this time of the year?
Spring has to be the best time of the year when there is natural beauty all around us and we have the warm summer days to look forward to. We can’t now swim in the river and play games on the bank as we used to but there are still lots of ways the river can be enjoyed. For instance, there are all kinds of boating activities for us to get involved in ourselves or get pleasure from watching others taking part.
A relaxing pastime we can all enjoy has to be just sitting beside it listening to the birds and watching the tide as it flows gently past. You might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the odd fish swimming by, a colourful dragonfly or any one of a hundred natural things that go on all of the time whether you are there or not. There are trees, often at the waters edge, offering shade from the sun and from where many varieties of wild flowers and grasses can be seen.
We often travel miles to see or find something different to do. Perhaps we should stop for a moment and ponder on the treasures to be found on our doorstep that we have yet to take note of and enjoy.
valley lad – [SIXTYSIX]