We are having a wonderful first springtime in Orkney, despite being in the middle of the covid-19 lockdown. I am so grateful to be here, I really can’t think of a nicer place to find ourselves in isolation.
We have never seen Orkney in the spring or summer, having moved here without visiting in the autumn last year. So far we have been treated to some glorious weather and it has been lovely to watch Rousay come to life.
Our kids and myself, haven’t left the island in nearly two months now, with only Matt popping over to Kirkwall every three weeks for grocery supplies. I think that if I was somewhere less peaceful, less beautiful that would have felt like a strain, but instead I have been making the most of it.
That is not to say that our lives have been unaffected by the craziness going on around the world. We feel uneasy about finances, as I am sure most people do with limited possibilities for making money and my five in the nest miss seeing friends and trips to the library. There are things that we can’t get hold of and plans that have had to be put on hold, but all of our family are safe and well and we are fortunate enough to have wide open spaces to wander in, without worrying about social distancing.
The thing that I was most looking forward to about spring, was discovering the plant life on the island, as by the time that we got here everything had died back ready for the winter.
So far I have not been disappointed. The season of blooms began with the arrival of the daffodils. We were so surprised and delighted when hundreds of bulbs started to push their way into the world back in March. It wasn’t just our garden either, the whole island seemed to be covered in daffodils once they started to bloom. It was such a welcome burst of colour and they were quickly joined by lesser celandine, dandelions, primroses and kingcups once we got into April.
With the glorious blue skies and sea and this mass of yellow flowers, April seemed to be a month filled with sunshine. It really gave us a boost in difficult times.
The trees that fill our garden have been coming to life too. First with fluffy white willow tips and then bursting into fuzzy yellow puffs of pollen. The bumblebees having been having a great time! And now the leaves are suddenly there, making the garden look so green, when before it was just a mass of bare branches.
Although we are only a few days into May, we have already seen changes in the colours around us. Pinks, purples and blues are now beginning to dot the landscape, with the arrival of cuckoo flower/lady’s smock, dog violets and bluebells. There are vast seas of daisies too, filling entire fields. At first we thought that some of the local farmers were putting something on the fields up the hill from us, but when we went walking that way we realised that it was just a huge mass of daisies. I don’t think I have ever seen as many before.
The coast is also coming to life, with sea thrift and scurvy grass making an appearance. I was particularly happy about this, as sea thrift is one of my favourite flowers and it was lovely to find it in abundance here.
I know that there are many more flowers to come, because I can see so many different kinds of foliage beginning to appear in the verges. I can’t wait to find out what they all are.
It isn’t only the plant life that has seen changes over the past couple of months, there is always an abundance of birds here but now there is a greater variety of calls and nesting birds are everywhere you look. I have always enjoyed birdsong, I find it very calming, so this is the perfect place for me. There is constant birdsong and it goes on well after dark.
Most of the island is farmland and the fields are now filled with lambs who compete with the birds to see who can make the most noise.
The seals (who we all adore) have been enjoying the sunshine as much as us, and seem particularly playful when they’re in the water, splashing about and generally showing off. They come up so close to us when we’re on the beach and bob about watching us as much as we’re watching them.
We collected some frogspawn from a puddle in the peat bog back in April and now have a very healthy colony of tadpoles living in our porch. We had a large number of frogs living in our garden before we moved to Orkney, but they never spawned there, so it has been a great opportunity to watch them develop.
Having all of this new life around us has been so uplifting and reminds me of being a child and the excitement of discovering the natural world around me. My three middle children have made nature journals to keep through the year, to remind us of everything that we see and I think that I might have to make one too, as I feel like I am missing out!
I don’t want to forget this first year.