02 April 2018

We declare it officially spring here when the first primroses open on the croft. Here they are, nestled in a crack in a south-facing rock face, down close to the shore of Loch Roe.

It looks like they've been out for a few days, although there are hardly any others open, so these are the vanguard.

We've been away for a few days in Northumberland, in the village I grew up in and where my father still lives. I always go for a walk in the woods when I'm there, and I didn't see any primroses there, although the dogs' mercury is out and there would have been celandines if the sun had been shining.

I have walked the same woods for as long as I can remember, and when I was growing up, it's impossible to exaggerate the importance to me of that patch of wild, native trees, stretching from the edge of the field across from our street, down to the stream that flows towards the River Tyne. Yet it struck me forcibly this time what a measly little strip of native woodland it is, a meagre stream-side of trees squeezed between intensive arable on one flank and monoculture spruce plantation on the other side of the burn. Nevertheless, it was the wild wood that set me on my way to a life of forest campaigning. It was the place where fairies and elves lived when I was small, where I followed badgers, foxes, deer and owls to their homes, and which gave me inexpressible comfort and privacy when times were hard. It brought home to me this weekend how important the little scruffy uncultivated places are in our landscapes - those places in nature that can feel like home.

Coming home to a walk in the wild wood of Assynt, in search of the primroses, I know exactly how lucky I am to have such a place on my doorstep.

Wishing you all a wonderful springtime.

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