‘Poo-ey, wind the window up!’, the holidaying kids shout from their overheated cars as they speed down the wooded gulley past the Gower Inn and on into the stretched-out village of Parkmill and its narrow, easily congested street.
This year I intended to stop in that wooded gulley ahead of the time when the wild garlic, or ransoms (Allium ursinum), put out their rank-smelling, star-shaped flowers. But even as I approached in my hermetically sealed car my nose tells me I am a little late, I was aiming to capture the woods, which I have sped past myself so many times, as an immaculate sea of green, rather than white odoriferous ‘soup’.
The daffodils are over, the primroses, for whom it been a good year, and the wood anemones are to the fore with the bluebells just waking. I find in this cold spring the ransoms in lower part of the wood are still in leaf and the descending path is the only access if you didn’t want to intrude in the deep curls of long shiny leaves. The recent discussion on the importance of childhood reading gives me the opportunity to indulge in some personal reflections. The path itself, bordered with bare trees, brings to mind The Cat that Walked by Himself from Kipling’s innocent Just So Stories. The vanishing point invokes that children’s book of continual journeying and adventure, Tolkien’s The Hobbit – in fact I feel sure the earthy and abundant ransoms would be a
staple of the Hobbit kitchen. But the woods don’t need to be pushed into a fictional frame to be brought to life as they are splendid in themselves. In a celebratory way they are naughtily topsy-turvy. The green canopy which should be in the trees grows at your feet and the beeches’ bare branches sway like roots that are for once are seeking out the sun. As if almost to mock the rightful way of things, the uniform leaves have a paintbox pigment colour as if this spring festival is a moment of licensed anarchy. By summer – after the ‘stink-bomb’ flowers have faded and the plant retreats back into earth – it will be like the end of every festival when we wonder if that crazy moment happened here at all. But for now the narrow woods are light, playful and just a little stinky.
Some ramsons food.