There are five great lime trees just across the road from our cottage. Small-leaved limes, they’re found only in southern Britain, and are one of our most uncommon native trees. Majestic, and in a line, their delicate spring lime-greens stand out from the sycamore and horse chestnuts and are a fine spectacle. Early paintings and 19th century photographs of the village show the trees as mature, so they are probably over two centuries old.
It’s time to put out bedding plants, and our village boasts a thriving market garden possibility dating back to medieval times. Original field strips divided by ancient hedges still produce traditional vegetables, the only concession to modernity being long polytunnels for summer flowers such as fuchsias, bizzy lizzies, geraniums and the like. Most of the original buildings in the village survive; the pub, the old blacksmith shop, now an art dealer, and several cottages are probably 300 years old. Until half a century ago, our own little cottage was also part of the market gardening community, the rear garden being the last remaining piece of a medieval strip of land. Restored several years ago, the old well on the green dates back to the original village. Although modern houses have appeared over the years, the old hamlet hangs on, deeply imprinted on the subconscious lives of us all.
At last the temperature is normal. Evening cricketers, dressed in full whites, contest the great game in front of no spectators. Swallows join in, but take no part, and overhead house martins are at last in residence. Spotted flycatchers are due at the end of the month, but they’re rare now, and I don’t hold out much hope of seeing one nearby. We can then forget the uncertainty of the last weeks, and look forward to summer, but I’ll then worry about how many young our village birds can produce in the critical two months ahead.