Return to the hawthorn path

I have not neglected the path these past months; but during the winter I allowed my focus to shift, and then to relax and not force writing until my mind was in the right place for it; the slow awakening that comes with the warming earth and the unfurling of bright new leaves. I enjoyed it quietly, privately, for what is was. For what it is.

The birds were there all along of course,  chirring and chittering, living their lives wrapped in the cold and damp, welcoming the winter visitors – the redwings and the fieldfare, but not in the numbers seen the year before; and now they welcome their summer migrant neighbours. The first lone swallow was seen, burbling excitedly, on the telegraph wire at the bottom of the lane, two weeks ago. Now the air throngs with their acrobatic swoops and incessant gossip as they wheel and dive for insects, causing me to duck more than once.


The hedgerows, thick with hawthorn blossom, are still full of the chatter of birds; but less from the bolshy great tits with their ‘come and have a go’ alarm calls. Here now are chiff-chaffs, reed buntings among the blackbirds and robins busy at the base of the hedges.

I am learning to recognise birds by song and call; as the dense spring leaves blind you most of their movements now. I realise how much I have taken the bare branches of winter for granted.

It is a long process, but each new song is a new bird to discover, to look and – more importantly – listen out for each time you come. You find yourself beginning to miss familiar calls in well-known places – I have not heard the wren on the nature trail this year; and I missed the angry great tit that greets me from the gate at the village end of the hawthorn path. He was not there this morning but he likely has a new family to feed and that his keeping him from his cantankerous threats to keep out of his garden. If birds had fists, he would be shaking his like an irate grandad.

I record the songs as best I can on my phone. I catch the odd glimpse through my binoculars, memorising markings, beak shape, leg colour, habitat.

I walk the lane between the froth of cow parsley, the stitchwort glimmering in the shadows like stars, the first tufted vetch and germander speedwell taking over from the gently fading bluebells. I step over a dead mouse, there doesn’t seem to be a mark on it. I smell fox. I wonder whether we have cubs here, as we do in the woods. The sun beats down, butterflies sunbathe on dandelions. Tortoiseshell, orange-tipped, peacocks.

In the coolness and darkness of the living room this afternoon I pour over my bird books, check my recordings against YouTube videos.


My new friends are whitethroats and willow warblers. And I am glad that every day continues to be a school day on the hawthorn path.

I could come here every day and it still wouldn’t be enough.



Beauty on Dark Days – part 6

And so we continue with our winter images as we edge ever closer to the Winter Solstice. This week I have been focusing on Scottish artists.

Threshold by Daniel Fairbairn



Fresh Snow, Loudounhill by Glen Scouller



Catterline in Winter by Joan Eardley



View from the Mound, Edinburgh, looking West by William Crozier

Crozier, William, 1893-1930; View from the Mound, Edinburgh, Looking West


Island in the Sound by Pam Carter


Beauty on Dark Days – part 5

I have now added links, wherever possible, with more information on each artist on each of the entries of the past few days, which I hope readers find helpful.



The woods are lovely, dark and deep by Catherine Hyde. This painting was apparently inspired by Robert Frost’s iconic poem “Stopping by woods on a snowy evening”. I can’t stop gazing at it.



North by Foet Frey



Winter Trees by Mary Anne Aytoun Ellis



Winter Fun by Andrew Macara reminds me so much of the spot we take the children sledging and this painting is filled with the special kind of childlike glee that comes with snow.



Paris Street, Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte



Now that I’ve caught up with where we are on Facebook where I post a picture daily, the next installment here will be in four days time, with a special selection of Scottish artists.




Beauty on Dark Days – part 3

Our continuation of all things wintry and wonderful.

Scotland: North of Loch Ness by Norman Ackroyd



Storm, Arran by Michael Murphy



Rannoch Moor by Rebecca Vincent



Dawn over the Estuary by Peter Wileman



December Snow by Eric Ravilious


I do hope you’re enjoying these and will take time to research each artist and find out more about them and their beautiful work. You might also consider joining the #justacard campaign to help artists and small businesses. Look it up on Twitter and Instagram to find out more.

Thank you x




Beauty on Dark Days – part 1

I decided to try and lift some of the gloom of our long Scottish winters by looking at the beauty of the season and how this has been captured by artists – not just snowy festive scenes, but also images capturing the eclectic weather at this time of year – racing storms, driving rain, scudding clouds, long shadows and the ethereal low sunlight that bathes the earth in gold.

I have been sharing a single image a night on my Facebook page and several people have commented on how much they have been enjoying the series and have been introduced to artists they are unfamiliar with, but as my personal feed is closed down to all but my friends I thought I would spread the love and share it here, too.

Here are days 1 to 5:

Clear Winter Night by Mark Donaldson. (No link available)



South Arm Tributary by Renato Muccillo



‘And A Soft Rain Fell’ by Stewart Edmondson



Unknown (and ideas gratefully appreciated so I can credit correctly)



‘Like Oil and Water’ by Louis LaBrie



Things are very quiet here on the Hawthorn Path at the moment, though there is more going on over at my other blog which you can find here…..


The summer drifts away with every lengthening morning shadow; every peep of sun behind chimney pots, every dappling of wandered path. Mornings are finger tingling, dragon breathing, coats zipping, protestations against extra layers – not just yet do we wish to wave farewell to the warmth.

The woods are changing daily now. The stillness and the heady, heavy scent of Himalayan balsam are replaced by a breeze that carelessly brushes leaves to the ground as it rushes through the treetops, and pushes the Clyde against its current; fidgety ripples disturbing the reflection of the lowering sun on the water. A sun that fractures into a million tiny watery stars, then becomes two quicksilver flashing water dragons, racing each other to the sea, gamboling downstream.

I have a conker in my hand, though I don’t remember having picked it up. It is the smoothest thing I have ever touched, it is every rich brown I have ever seen. It is chocolate, and caramel, and the warmth of the red sandstone of this area of Scotland, my new home. It is home.

This conker is potential new life; a new world; an existence expectantly waiting in the wings.

And for a moment I am Mother Earth in wellies and wax jacket, holding this perfect potential in my hand. I could take it home for the mantelpiece, or I could be the giver of life, the giver of protection, of home, of warmth and sustenance within its growing form from a tiny sapling to a great horse chestnut , future mother-tree protecting all that shelter in, on and beneath her benevolent branches.

I push the conker into the ground, I become human again. Unimportant again. Nature will have its own stories to tell and existences to plot.

I walk on through the woods, pushed this way and that by the breeze.


Join me on my other blog…

I am giving up social media (and alcohol!) for the whole of August. I’ll be concentrating on my other blog Potter And Pootle and blogging about how different life is without Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Can that pre-social media world be rediscovered? Is it still there? Or are we too far gone along the path of checking for likes and getting involved in dramas now?

How will I – a self-confessed Twitter and Instagram junkie (FB I have a grudging relationship with) – cope without the pull of social media? What will it be like not knowing what my friends have had for lunch, how much they’ve spent on shoes, or how amazingly intelligent their children are? How will I manage without feeling the fury ignited by the rubbish spouted by thousands of Twitter trolls every hour of every day? How will I cope without filtered images of cakes, beautiful gardens and people looking ridiculously cool?

I’m walking down this path. You coming?

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