Seasonal Sights - Winter

The stag bells, winter snows, summer has gone,
Wind high and cold, the sun low, short its course
Deep red the bracken; its shape is lost;
The wild goose has raised its accustomed cry,
Cold has seized the birds' wings;
Season of ice, this is my news.

Irish poem - 9th Century

The leafless skeletons of trees and shrubs standing stark against the grey sky heighten the illusion that the countryside in winter is lifeless. Yet wander along the hedgerows around Stottesdon, on a crisp, sunny day and you will see next year’s hazel catkins, already around 2cm long and somewhere sheltered from the worst of the weather, young leaves of cow parsley and other hedgerow biennials will be pushing through, encouraging thoughts of longer, warmer days. Closer inspection may even reveal the young shoots of primroses beginning to push their way up through the soil.

Very few of our small mammals go into true hibernation during the cold winter months, with the exception of the now scarce dormouse and the hedgehog. The extent of their comings and goings will be easy to see if you are lucky enough to take a walk on a snowy day; each species leaving a unique footprint laid out across the snow in a characteristic pattern. It’s a tough time for animals as they search for scarce food and while snow lies on the ground their comings and goings are clear to see.

A sure sign that the season is changing is the arrival of two Scandinavian thrushes, the redwing and the field fare. They are often seen together, flying in large flocks across the wintery fields on the lookout for hedgerow berries.

A beautiful but poisonous berry which escapes the attention of hungry birds is the black bryony, its festoons of sealing wax red berries often remaining the most colourful part of the hedge around the lanes of Stottesdon during the winter months.

The scarlet berries of holly are a universal favourite, and there is much folklore surrounding the holly, it was once a deeply respected tree. One planted near a house was thought to protect it from lightening and keep away evil spells and enchantments and a thrashing with holly twigs was a sure cure for chilblains!

Nothing beats those winter blues more than getting out into the fresh air, so take a winter’s walk around the lanes, woods and fields of Stottesdon and if the day is nearing its end you may be rewarded with the colourful spectacle of a Shropshire sunset. The sky painted with splashes of orange and yellow and, as the sun disappears below the Clee Hills, changing gradually to blue mingled with tints of mauve – a sight not to be missed.

With our thanks to Liz Smith for this seasonal contribution


Black Bryony

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