[This year I have decided to study two big Horse Chestnut trees near our house.  This is Part 3 of my sketchbook-learnings.]

In my February update on the chestnuts I commented that I thought February was the toughest month of the year.  Well!  Hasn’t March been weird?

This month the chesnuts have been in bud.  Horse Chestnuts are one of the earliest trees to bud in winter, but we really began to see those buds develop this month.  At the beginning of the month each twig ended in hard little bullet-buds which have now grown into more generous big-fat-buds.  Horse Chestnut buds are covered in a sticky resin.  It feels like a gluey film when you touch it.  This is because the trees produce particularly large buds and the glue holds the elements of the buds together.  This lets the bud grow nice and big before they pop open later in the spring.

March is always a month where there is a lot of change in the countryside.  As the days get longer (it is light now when we put the piglet down for the night! Thankfully his Granny made some black-out blinds just in time) the world comes to life.  It’s all frisky flirting and new growth and brighter colours.  This year, the acceleration of vitality and new life in the natural world has coincided with the progression of the Covid-19 virus in the human-realm.  Never have I felt more out-of-step with nature.  As restrictions come into force telling us to stay at home, narrow our lives, reduce our activities and avoid social contact, the natural world is just entering it’s most frantic, vibrant season.  On our daily walks, we hear the bird song becoming louder every day as the birds begin their annual pairing-up.  We see rooks collecting nesting material.  The mallards on the river are doing some highly boisterous quacking.  There are two robins in the garden rather than one.  Life is more lively.  It almost seems insulting.  Has no one told them that life is on pause?  Why haven’t they noticed that we are grieving our freedom?

This year has had repeated reminders that nature remains a force to be reckoned with.  The fires in Australia, the storms and flooding here, and now this virus.  Even the greatest societies are vulnerable to the forces of nature.  Of course the natural world hasn’t paused with us while we wait this out.

I’ve been feeling a bit glum that the lockdown has further pointed out that difference we have created between ourselves and the rest of the natural world.  But I suppose I should just be thankful for the welcome distraction of blossom and buds and bunnies and bird song.  I’m certainly very grateful for our daily exercise and getting a noseful of wild garlic and that peculiar river smell.  I’m grateful for the busy house sparrows nesting in the ivy on the front of the house.  I’m grateful for the bobbing grey wagtail on the riverbank.  And I’m grateful for the time to pause and enjoy.

Back to the chestnuts! Onwards they go on their annual transformation.  If you are a parent with bored children, why not go on a sensory walk and touch some Horse Chestnut buds.  They really are remarkably sticky!

Horse Chestnut Bud March Sketchbook Page Hannah Longmuir

PS Chestnut 2 is definitely hollow for at least the top 3rd.  I’m thinking this isn’t a brilliant sign of it’s health!?

Hollow Horse Chestnut Tree

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