The first sniff of Spring

As January shivers towards its final days I feel renewed optimism. The hours of daylight are undergoing their slow but inexorable annual increase, the antidote to seasonal affective disorder. Snowdrops are flowering in my garden and so now are the early crocuses, the first harbingers of Spring. Having acknowledged their appearance I’ve begun to watch and listen for spring birdsong, the rise of the daffodils, the return of curlews from the marshes, the mating display of lapwings. Of course I’ll have to wait another month or so for those developments, but now the year has turned past the pivot of its winter solstice they’ve been transformed in my mind from daydream to expectation.

There will be more days and nights of frost and snow before spring arrives in full glory – statistically, there’s more likely to be snow on Easter Monday than on Christmas Day – but the sun is gradually gaining power and snow will be dissipated more quickly than it was a month ago. Unless the roads become treacherous, continuing winter weather won’t deter me from going out and about around the Peak District again.

I’ll have to go out and about around the Peak District anyway, because our planned folktale-filming project requires me to visit communities in South West Peak (in effect, North Staffordshire, seasoned with a sliver of North-West Derbyshire) in an effort to get them on board with the scheme. Community support will be a sine qua non for award of the grant for which we’re applying – and we’ll need the grant, filming being an expensive job. I have several dates in my diary for February and March; some of these are storytelling gigs and others will, with any luck, lead on to such gigs. All the communities involved are rural villages, some of them very small, but those are exactly the places in which we expect traditions to survive. When I make these visits I hope to learn more Peak District folktales in exchange for the ones I already tell, because my repertoire for South West Peak is rather thin… and since the grant, if our application is successful, will be for filming in this area, I need to enhance my collection.

Already I’ve picked up two or three traditional stories that I hadn’t previously heard, and on 12th February I’m going to Leek to attend a lecture by Byron Machin, whose knowledge of the lore of this part of the land is almost equal to his expertise in Peak District archaeology, geology and botany. I’ve never met Byron, though we’ve corresponded, and I’m looking forward to his lecture and with luck a chat afterwards. I suspect we’ll both be able to contribute more to the Wonders of the Peak website – which, since I haven’t mentioned it for a while, is well worth a visit: And I hope he, too, will lend his support to our filming scheme!


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