Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunshine is like magic - it brings us all to life

Today was the perfect day for getting a few chores done before heading out without further delay into a stunningly beautiful spring extravaganza.

I delayed to plant out some flowers which I had bought earlier in the week, updated two of my websites, swiftly consumed a hasty brunch of home made rillettes on toast, and I was ready for off. I left at 1220, launching myself into the bright sunshine, heading forth beneath a flawless blue sky. Great stuff.

The spring greenery is coming along nicely, new shoots appearing whilst existing ones begin to expand or break out of buds. The crocuses are over now, but the daffodils are emerging in bright shifts and the violets have expanded to cover an area far larger than I recall from previous years. They are quite wonderful. Yellow Flag irises are flourishing in any damp area, only inches tall so far. Newly flowering plants include forsythia, campanula and speedwell. Lots of trees of all sizes are about to explode into full blossom, with one or two already putting on a very fine pure white show. Catkins and pussy willow are everywhere and both the Woodland and the Ecological Park breathe life and energy.

In the Russia Dock Woodland there were small brids singing but they were all very high in the trees, perhaps because of the sheer volume of people wandering around. The only birds braving the ground level were the crows, magpies and blackbirds., the latter making a huge din as they turned over old leaves. I checked last year's woodpecker nest which was near to the Green but although it was clearly visible there were no signs of an occupant. It was a different story in the Ecological Park where thickets of low level trees and shrubs offer greater protection at a lower level. Here there were lots of birds singing although the only ones I actually saw were Robins and Great Tits. The spring plumage of the Robins is so bright that it is almost impossible not to find them when you hear their song and look for them. They are wonderful.

A couple of mallards were on the Downtown pond but the only other aquatic birds to appear in any number were a few coots and moorhens on Globe pond.

There were no foxes or squirrels and very few signs of pond life, although it must be down there somewhere. Insects are beginning to emerge. There was a crowd of honey bees on a tree with pollen-loaded catkins by the Green, next to Waterman's Walk and I saw two white butterflys and three yellow ones. The whites were too far away to narrow down, but there was no doubt about the vivid yellow ones, which look as though they have been painted with highlighter pens, and were obviously Brimstones.

In the butterfly sanctuary the grass is still short, and there are no signs of insect life, but the shrubberies are coming back to life and small squares of exposed earth in the grass mark places where new plants have been recently planted., hopefully to attract butterflies and other insects. I hope that they grow to be happy members of the community! I was looking out for Les Butler in the Stave Hill area but although he wasn't there it was good to see someone else inspecting the butterfly sanctuary with an interested eye.

I headed towards the SurreyDocks Health Centre, aiming to cross the road using the bridge and walk some of the Thames Path. A sorry spectacle awaited. As well as the ugly wooden hoardings that have been erected by Barratt Homes, there are now metal fences which seal off the entire health centre site. The devestation visible through the bars of the fences made me feel rather sick - big mature plane and cherry trees, some up to 25 years old, felled and left lying over what was once a communal seating area for visitors to the health centre and the nearby school. One of the trees has been felled and left to lie on top of one of the Dockland Development Corporation's sculptures, a compass which once filtered water to form a fountain at the centre of a seating area shaded by tall trees. The trees were lost, miserably, last week but surely the sculpture could be saved? I really don't know how Barratt's can justify this blatant pice of disrespect for a landmark feature installed in the days when local authorities cared about the area. The sculpture should have been moved. It is community property. This cold disregard for our local property makes me very angry.

Abandoning the truly depressing carnage I crossed the footbridge and headed for the Thames Path, passing more banks of daffodils. It was nice to see lots of people enjoying the sunshine. I walked back through the Surrey Dock Farm which was full of families admiring and interacting with the animals. The pigs, which I adore, were all sunbathing. The donkeys were being much-pampered and all the livestock seemed to be enjoying the day, along with the rest of us. At the Farm's pond I paused to look in and there were hundreds of frogs or toads enjoying the sun. It was too sunny to see which they were, but it was great to see them all there. I must keep an eye open at Globe Pond because if they are at the Farm they must be at the pond soon.

I came back home along the side of Greenland Dock. Yesterday there were Great Crested Grebes but today I could only see one. The shag was in his usual place, wings spread wide as he balanced on a buoy in the centre of the dock. One pair of coots have set up their nest on a pontoon by the Norway Cut Swing Bridge, and their nest is adorned with a tangled mess of bright and very ugly bits of plastic bag, wrappers and bin liners. Yesterday a Great Crested Grebe was stealing a piece of binliner from the pontoon.

I rounded the corner of Tavistock Tower, the former dock inlet into Russia Dock, to come back into Russell Place and was confronted with chaos and bedlam at the Moby Dick. The place was absolutely heaving with people downing drinks and vast plates of food. Poor Margaret was delivering and removing plates and collecting empties as fast as her legs would carry her.

When I returned home I sat on our communal terrace and watched the world go by on Greenland Dock, and on the walkways around it. Sailing boats, bicycles, people with pushchairs, groups of people, even one lunatic swimming - they all passed by, blured to the waterside by the bright sunshine and the warmth. For the first time in months I bumped into people I haven't seen for many months, even though they are quite close neighbours. It was good to chat. The sun has brought us all out once again.

I'll post more photographs from today over the next couple of days.

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