Late January into early February isn’t a great time for walking in the UK – The weather is unpredictable, but tends to be unpleasant. If we’re going to get any snow at all, the odds are it will come now.
Fortunately, the vast majority of seasonal things I am interested in, are not hard to find and don’t require long or complicated walks. Snowdrops are all over the place, including on the cycle paths and towpaths that are frequently part of my routes. Little white flowers that will come up through snow, for me they are the emblem of the season. They are easy to spot as well, but they certainly aren’t the only thing waking up.
In some places crocuses will be out, and a little behind the snowdrops are the celandines – a low to the ground yellow flower. On the towpath, celandines and snowdrops are blossoming together. The blackthorn flowers about now as well – more delicate white flowers on its as yet unleafy black branches. Other fruit bearing trees also put out flowers – I’ve seen cherry and a wild plum in this last week as well. The pussy willow will be opening out its soft and fuzzy catkins, other trees have their catkins on. Anywhere that has anything by way of green spaces will likely have signs of spring as well.
The traditional association with Imbolc is lambs, and the first ewe’s milk. This is not however a time of year for seeing lambs in the fields, at least not in the UK. The lambing season has been artificially extended for a long time, for the convenience of people. Lambs born in winter are born in sheds and stay indoors until the weather picks up – which is also more about our benefit than theirs. When they go out will vary depending on the weather and when, exactly, they were born. I’m lucky in that there’s a field nearby where I can reliably see lambs most years, and I can watch out for their coming. I don’t have to take any extended walks on the off-chance of seeing sheep.
One seasonal shift that particularly affects my walking options at this time of year, is the increase of light. Back on Christmas day, being out the door at 7.30 am meant leaving in the dark, but now the sky is significantly lighter at this point. I like early morning walking when it’s quite, and Imbolc marks the time of year when I can start doing that again. I now also have some semblance of twilight, and the option of twilight walking. At midwinter when the sun sets at four, what twilight there is largely passes me by. Having twilight for a while in the evening, when I’m not working and may be out and about delights me. Not being able to engage with the twilight through the two darkest months is tough for me. The return of evening twilight means soon I’ll be seeing the other crepuscular creatures again, and this cheers me greatly.