In celebration of Mother’s Day the sun pours through the bare trees, its warming rays flooding the forest floor. Like a proud mother herself, Nature reveals the sweet new growth of spring with the unfurling of new leaves and the dotting here and there of star-like wood anemones. The bright sun catches the creeping ivy making it shine like polished glass. A bee buzzes along behind me. “What are you doing, lady, in my patch of the woodzzz?” We’re off the beaten track where Bill flies after her ball, losing and finding it amidst the piled leaves and twigs, so dry and crisp they snap and crackle underfoot. A young Alsatian walks towards us, ears pricked, a stick in her mouth. Bill drops her ball. The dogs tentatively greet each other but this is a double ruse as the Alsatian eyes up Bill’s ball whilst Bill eyes up the stick. I call her away, “Come on Bill!” We come across a stone-walled paddock corralling sheep who watch our every move as they slowly, mechanically chew.
Taking a wide berth around them we emerge onto the busy roadside opposite the pretty stone church at Friston where the willow weeps her green tears of spring joy into the village pond. We wait patiently before crossing and taking the path towards the idyllic Crowlink tucked into the valley between the sea and the rolling Downs. Our path is edged with a palette of yellows: daffodils, celandines and primroses. Overhead the trees are laden with delicate white, fairy blossoms. Moving beyond the scattering of houses we sink deeper into the valley where, completely alone, we stop. Listen! Stillness. Nothing but birds and bees strung out on a gentle breeze. Beyond Crowlink the vast sweeping curve urges us towards the cliffs but, not wanting to get too close, we veer off to the left, wending our way up the steep slope of Flagstaff Brow through a prickly gorse maze flourishing golden flowers protected by sharp, taloned thorns. At the top, a little breathless, we can finally see the sea, peaceful in a misty haze that subtly blends the pastel green with the pale azure of the sky. Bill’s ball bounces down the other side of the slope into a clump of thorny trees, just out of her reach. She watches me, I’d like to think anxiously, as I struggle amongst the branches, scrabbling and stretching, trying not to snag my clothes. In my head I hear a mocking, an old adage to do with dogs and wagging tails whilst I consider my preposterous position before finally extricating both myself and the ball.
We make our way back to the forest.
Along the final muddy track a young family armed with long branches dig about in a huge puddle, triumphantly lifting out wodges of dripping leaves.
Their mum watches over them as they squeal with laughter at their game.
I smile at her contentment, and silently wish her, and all mothers, a perfect Mother’s Day.