Gazing up into the petals of this snowdrop in a West Sussex wood, I could almost believe in the idea of spring. The woodland floor gleamed with splashes of white under a gloomy sky and hazel stems dripped with golden cadelabra of catkins. Along the banks of a stream the snowdrops nodded their heads in the wind, like tiny white bells ringing in the annual renewal of life. Wild daffodils were just bursting open, above an understorey of violet leaves and bluebell shoots - promising a sequence of woodland flowers.
On this clay-covered corner of the South East we're splashing through the puddles of an unusually wet winter. To say nothing of the mud. When day after day dawns dim and watery, it's hard to believe that seasons scented with blossom and buzzing with bees are just weeks away. But despite the deluge, temperatures have been mild and the sap is rising. Buds are ready to burst on willow, hawthorn, apple trees and beech and hazel stems are bearing their tiny but exotic female flowers.
Last week we basked in warm sunshine on a fleeting and premature spring day: the first brimstone butterflies of the year took to the wing; sleepy queen bumblebees crawled out of winter holes; and the teeniest tadpoles hatched in a pool. Earth, keep spinning and roll us into another spring!