I am an artist printmaker specialising in animals and the natural world. As a child, I spent a lot of time out in the countryside watching the ever-changing cast of characters who appeared as the seasons changed.
Spring meant observing hedgerows very closely: Snowdrops' nodding heads beneath meant Daffodils and longer days were on the way. Once the Blackthorn had flowered on bare branches; next came the Hawthorn, but only once its "cuckoo's bread and cheese" leaves had opened. These ancient hedgerows were soon filled with the cacophony of Sparrows conversing at the top of their voices. Spring also meant the arrival of lambs in the ancient orchard next to the house. One memorable year, a "sock lamb" hand-reared by the farmer took a shine to Louise and would wait for her to arrive home from school. They would solemnly eat a snack of toast and marmalade together while she told him about her day. (She's never been able to eat lamb since...!) Primroses appearing in the ancient hedges on dog walks were cause for great celebration, there's just something about the sight of a Primrose... This celebration was matched only by the joyous sight—and smell—of a Bluebell wood under a blue sky filled with sun and clouds scudding in the wind. The seasons were on the turn.
Summer started with birdsong, the arrival of Cuckoos and Chiffchaffs both with their wonderfully easy to remember songs, next came the Dog Roses, the House Martins and finally it was always a magical, heart-filling day when the first "Scree! Scree! Scree!" heralded the arrival of the Swifts returning from their African winter holiday. Swifts meant long summer holidays were nigh! These were largely spent outdoors finding Foxgloves, Butterflies, Moths, Hedgehogs and, if you were really lucky, a mother with her hoglets, trailing behind her in a straggly line in the dusk. Bats feasting in the warmer air were another treat as the evenings stretched ever later and Barn Owls flickered in and out of vision in the gloaming. Picnics reached by tractor, fishing for Minnows with jam jars and watching Bees feast on Teasels.
Autumn covered the land gently, softly, almost imperceptibly. As the days began to shorten, the Swifts gathered in huge numbers, their agile flight and daredevil insect chases taking on a new urgency, "We must leave, the nights are chilling, the warm winds of Africa are calling us, but we will be back." And just like that, one day they would be gone. The wistful regret at their leaving would soon be forgotten, though, because the Blackberries were ripe and so we joined the birds, Badgers, Foxes and Harvest Mice in their purple-stained annual feast. The Ivy flowers in the hedgerows were abuzz with the insects while the Robins began their songs again to re-establish their winter territories. Conkers, much-prized for playground battles, mixed with beech mast and acorns as the leaves changed colour, turning the world yellow, orange and red. Fields filled with straw bales that threw ever-longer shadows and Fireworks Night meant building a bonfire as the afternoon turned to dark thanks to the clocks going back.
And soon enough, the land was covered not in autumnal dew, but ground frost that turned the grass into a million tiny diamonds on a crisp sunny morning. Hoare frost was even better, ice-dusting the whole landscape into a wonderland that tinkled in a gentle breeze. Redwings arrived and were confused with Fieldfares, and while they feasted on the Rowan berries and windfall apples, Long-Tailed Tits bustled about in their troupes, peeping their excitement at some exciting find in the garden. Just as winter felt it would go on forever, the evenings started a little later and mornings a little earlier. Starlings flocked together, resident birds joining with winter migrants in ever larger murmurations, their swirling, tumbling, seething mass a bedtime story for birds and little birders alike.
And so the seasons turned again. And again.