Spring equinox, vernal equinox. Time to wake up, restart. To perhaps sow some seeds, notice the birds nest-building, appreciate the days lengthening. A sunny Sunday, and a chance, later in the day, to go for a walk, to Bootham Stray. Heading for a bit of the Bur Dyke, looking for signs of spring.
By the front of the hospital, down Wigginton Road, escaping away from the traffic down the path by allotments, descending the sloped path where greenery is already brightening, down onto the lower level where the trains used to run, under the curved brickwork of the bridge. Turning left, onto a daffodil-lined path, passing a solar-powered clock, a reminder of the old factory. Part of its old cleared site on the right, Cocoa West.
Then along the stretch of road rather dull to walk in winter, now livened up by so much greening over of hawthorn in the hedges. Wild things beginning their spring growth and flowering beneath. Daisy, dandelion, celandine.
There’s still a factory, on this site next to the old cleared one, and from it, on this sunny Sunday, comes the scent of cocoa.
On its boundary, forsythia and flowering currant — those old stalwarts of so many suburban gardens — fling their bright and brazen flowers into the midst of subdued hues from tree branches whose buds are yet to open.
Past two stone gateposts, perhaps marking the site of the long-gone herdsman’s cottage. Across a wide road into the factory site, to the cycle track into Bootham Stray, and an escape from the road and its traffic.
Looking for blackthorn in flower, and heading for a large area of it I’ve appreciated in other years. Climbing over a stile, into the piece of land between the railway line and the cycle track. The road isn’t far away, but it feels forgotten about now, here in this wilder place.
The blackthorn remains budded, no flowers yet, despite the sun beaming down on it across this open land.
I head for the convenient gap in the hedge, across a bit of ditch which thankfully isn’t water-filled, and emerge back onto the cycle path side, after a brief period of being caught up in brambles and stumbling out to startle a passing cyclist.
Back then, to continue the wander on another bit of the stray, on the other side of the road.
A gate here is sometimes left open and sometimes closed. It’s clearly controversial.
At the level crossing, walking over the line slanting its way across the road, lines in the light, heading for Scarborough.
Across the road, a cockerel crows from the allotments. On the strip of grass between the allotments and the road I walk past pollen-filled catkins and the bright soft leaves of hedge mustard.
Then through another couple of gates in this strangely divided-up place, back to having to cross the road again, where a public footpath sign on the other side points the path across this grassed land. I head for the middle of it and stand, and look back towards the city, the factory, the railway line.
Thinking about how long it’s been since I went towards town to look at developments on those brownfield sites. Generally preferring the green fields, and heading outwards. Looking at plants more than buildings.
When the housing is built on Cocoa West and the old factory building is filled with flats I guess more people will be out here, walking on the stray. At present I rarely see anyone else, beyond the many cyclists using the cycle track through part of this stray land.
It’s just as well there’s no one else around, as I may look odd picking nettle tops. As I do, after donning the necessary gloves and getting a bag out of my rucksack. A traditional springtime tonic, apparently, though I didn’t know this until a few years back. They need a lot of washing, back home, then steaming to get rid of the sting, then they’re a welcome green thing to eat just as the new green things are emerging.
Time to head back home, across the field and the road, by the allotments where the cockerel crows. To the edge of the stray, where the housing begins.
Past an old faded wooden street sign on a house wall, denoting one end of Burton Stone Lane. A wide road lined with lime trees on the verges and generously sized interwar houses down both sides. Forsythia in bloom in the front gardens. The sound of children playing, shouting. Passing the park, with families just leaving, heading home for tea.
I can smell someone’s tea cooking, and realise how hungry I am, and remember how long Burton Stone Lane is, and how I’m heading for the other end of it. It seems longer than usual, and I hope that at home we’ll have something else to eat and not just the steamed nettles.
Past the shops, past the church, past gardens with daffodils brightly bobbing in the breeze, and pausing a while to looked at the cleared part of the former Duncombe Barracks site. More on that story later perhaps.
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A lot to catch up on. Your ko-fi coffees help pay the bills and power more pages. Thank you.