Our society is living through unusual times, but the natural world takes no notice of social distancing or isolation. It is largely unaffected and continues as normal. If anything, it’s enjoying some respite now that humans all over the world have been forced to slow down or stop altogether.
Days overtaking nights
Friday 20th March was the Spring equinox, marking the point of the year when the day and night are the same length. From now until 22nd September (the Autumn equinox) there will be more day than night. This may help to see us through some of the challenges we face – even from within our homes we can appreciate the extra daylight.
The Equinox marks the start of Spring, the perfect time to have a look at what’s happening in the Arboretum. It may be currently closed, but we aim to bring some of the delights of the woods to you at home.
Signs of Spring
So what’s happening in the arboretum right now? The slopes that lead down to the stream are carpeted with ramsons, or wild garlic; the ground is dotted with patches of pale yellow primroses; clusters of cheery daffodils have popped up; the dawn chorus starts the day as birds look for mates; sap is surging up through our deciduous trees as they come out of dormancy, helping leaf buds to form and unfurl.
Wild garlic is a favourite of foragers. Not only is it one of the first plants of the year that can be collected, but one of the easiest, most versatile and most satisfying. It grows on moist woodland floors, and Tortworth has it in abundance. On a sunny day its garlicky aroma fills the air.
Primula vulgaris, the common primrose, has sweet little pale yellow flowers and a delicate scent. It is one of the early signs of Spring (its name meaning ‘first rose’) and blooms on the woodland floor alongside the familiar daffodil.
The Japanese Maple is bringing variety to the Spring colour pallet in the arboretum. Its pink flower buds and new vibrant green leaves stand out against the backdrop of darker greens, earthy browns and yellows.
Amongst our collection of exotic trees (more about them in future posts) there are plenty of native squatters dotted around too. The silver birch, like other deciduous trees, has been coming out of dormancy following the winter months. In early Spring sap rises up through the tree trunks taking water, sugars and minerals to the branches, helping the trees to wake up and burst back in to life. The sap of the birch is another favourite of foragers. Some like to ‘tap’ the trees to collect the sweet, mineral rich liquid, which provides a nutritious drink and can be turned into wine.
Have a look for signs of spring in your garden, from your window, or at a local green space. Fresh air and exercise are important, but please follow the most recent guidelines on staying at home and social distancing, or self-isolation if you or someone in your household is unwell.
What we’re up to
The current situation has obviously caused us to stop all of our engagement and non-essential work on the site. Staff are making regular trips to keep an eye on the site, but more importantly to feed the goats! In the meantime we will be updating our website with lovely pictures and words about trees. We are also laying some foundations to bring you a fantastic programme of events and volunteering opportunities as soon as it is safe to do so.
With thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund who are supporting our work until the end of 2021.