The longest day is now behind us, and I remember wanting to write a post or two about my favourite season last spring, but never really took the time to pull images and text together. We had moved in November 2020 to Chudleigh, south Devon, from Teignmouth, and in the spring of 2021 I was only beginning to get used to the landscape around us. I walked a great deal then, and continue to do so now, and I have a good many photographs from last year’s explorations too, but have never published them. This year I’m determined to correct that, and so this is the first of either two or three blog pieces (I’ll see how I get on!) in which all of the photographs will be from the spring of 2022.
Even before we moved I was very familiar with the lovely minor road between Ashcombe and Chudleigh: its top section a thick corridor of (predominantly beech) trees that display a riot of colour in autumn and a blaze of bright zingy greens each spring. Its lower section opens up views across fields to Hennock and Dartmoor, and the country town of Chudleigh nestles in the valley. As the fairly mild winter retreated toward the end of March, some hint of spring colour was visible from a favourite green lane near Beggar’s Bush – a lane I would return to again and again as the season progressed.
A few days before taking this photograph I’d tried a new strategy for my walks, and asked my wife to drop me off at Little Haldon, above Teignmouth, so I could walk home to Chudleigh through the minor roads through Luton (not that one) and Ideford – a distance of probably 6-7 miles. I’d driven this route a few times but never walked it. It was a fairly early start, rather misty and grey for the most part, and I only include this single image, because much as I enjoyed the walk, it didn’t feel like spring, although my camera’s EXIF data records it as 30th March. I’ve spoken to several others who agreed that spring felt much later this year. And so this is the first spring image of this little series, but only as far as the date is concerned.
About 10 days after this image was taken I tried the same strategy again, asking my wife to drop me this time at the top of the Teignmouth golf course, where I headed home through one of my favourite routes via Humber Down, Three Tree Lane, and all the other lanes to my favourite, Hamblecombe Lane, just outside Ideford. This walk is a little further than the first one, but is always a joy, and this time it felt like spring was happening.
I can’t guess the number of people who walk the lanes in this quiet part of south Devon, but so far I have not met another walker on this route. I did meet a young lady pony trekking as I reached the top of Hamblecombe Lane. She and her pony are not in this photograph, but I include it here because I always enjoy the fact that almost my complete route from Little Haldon (the dark tree line just right of top centre) is visible from here in one glance, which is why it is such an excellent spot to sit and eat some lunch, and just re-walk it in my mind for a few minutes.
A full two weeks after this walk, I realised the colours were starting to become a bit special and so I asked to be dropped at the top of the Ashcombe – Chudleigh minor road, so I could walk home! The beech trees’ leaves were every bit as vibrant – almost explosive – as they were last year, just a little later. The morning commuter traffic zipped up and down through the lane as a cut-through to either Teignmouth or the A380, and between cars I stood in the middle of the road and framed some images of my favourite trees in their best ‘Ta-daaaaa’ moments!
If ever life seems dreary and dull during the spring or summer, find yourself a few trees in full leaf and make a conscious effort to look up. Right up – almost vertical! How could your mood not be lifted by something as inspiring as this? Everything is literally bursting with life, and tree branches are straining for that early spring sunlight.
I continued down to the start of the green lane near Beggar’s Bush again, taking more photographs of long views to the moor, the lane itself, and some of its little details, like the cow parsley and ferns breaking through the hedgerows. I only include a couple here, where spring was really only beginning.
Soon it was May, and the bluebells had appeared. I made just one trip to the moor to see them, and as always this was at Holwell Lawn near Hound Tor. I’ll include some of those images in the next post, as a kind of intermission among all of these more local walks and images. But a little earlier in May I continued to get out to try and capture the colours I was seeing in the local lanes. The reflections in the River Teign were full of those energetic greens that a few weeks later would be replaced by lazy summer yellowy-greens. The woods near The Rocks in Chudleigh had bluebells, but the secretive, delicious kind, that you have to stalk. Just down the road from where we live I was startled and saddened to find two dead blackbirds – one male, one female – lying side by side, beaks to tails. Why and how, I have no idea, but they had been removed the next day.
On a slightly later walk up to The Rocks in Chudleigh, everywhere was covered in wild garlic – it just suddenly appeared, and a few days later, it suddenly disappeared!
It was the middle of May, and everything was suddenly growing crazily and rapidly after a hesitant beginning to the season. About which, more soon.
I realise now that with the exception of my Holwell Lawn trip late in May, I have barely left my local landscape for any photography walks in the last three months, and yet I have an abundance of images I’m really happy with. Have I missed the sea, the moor, the city? Not really, not so far.
Thanks for reading.