Each season on the Chayne has its merits, and I must admit that my favourite is always the one currently happening. I love winter in winter and summer in summer, but there’s something really special about May. I was thinking it today as I walked round my larsen traps and was caught out in a passing shower. Being several hundred yards from the nearest cover, I crouched down into a peat hagg and pulled my jacket over my head until it passed.
For twenty minutes I lay in the hagg, and for twenty minutes without interruption a cock cuckoo called from the top of a still naked ash tree. Ash trees are always the last to show leaves and the first to turn in the autumn, but they manage to pack a huge amount of growth and activity into the few months of the year when they’re active. A small scattering of them remains around the ruined farm buildings at the back of the Chayne, and they are not only a magnet for crows and crow nests, but they also draw in thrushes and cuckoos during the spring. These latter love to perch in the tops and pour forth torrents of liquid music, which echo emptily across a hard, bony hill which hasn’t yet clothed itself in absorbant summer growth. The bird that I was listening to was just visible at the very top of his ash tree, flicking his long tail up over his head and calling incessantly through the warm falling water. It became like a heartbeat to the downpour; a rhythm in the rain.
A skylark fought its way up through the droplets and began to sing as the rain passed on and I pulled the jacket from my head. Undaunted, the cuckoo sang on like the bog’s pulse. A snipe began to drum, zig-zagging up and down through the sodden sky like the teeth of a wood saw. He banked and turned, looping over the sweating moss and coming back for another pass. Clouds of condensation rose up from a block of sitkas below the hill, giving the happy but misleading impression that they were on fire. But there was none of the hard form of smoke. The edges of the mist blended into transparency like steam.
I was soon on my way again, and the sphagnum moss wheezed beneath each footfall, forming clusters of peaty bubbles around the toes of my boots. The bog cotton isn’t as puffy as it should be yet, and I often think that there’s more value in those bobbing poms than there is in any field of vulgar tulips or lillies. Their best is yet to come, and the changing seasons will soon bring those Galloway roses dancing back into view.