For someone (allegedly) obsessed with the coming of spring, it was I suppose inevitable that I would feel the need to report the news that the season is now definitely, incontrovertibly with us here - I have found my first frogspawn of the year.
It was on Saturday. It was drear, cold and windy - not very springlike. I found two clumps of spawn in a large, muddy puddle at the bottom of a dip that the farmer drives through in his pick-up to feed the sheep. They looked revolting - covered in a grey-brown silt that reminded me of the scum you get on the top of cheap, instant coffee. Not an auspicious place to choose as a nursery for your offspring. There were lots of cleaner, larger puddles and pools. Who knows why they chose this one.
But I still felt the urge to collect some of it. I know removing frogspawn isn't encouraged these days - red leg disease and over-zealous collecting in the past have put the kybosh on it. But for many of us who grew up in less constrained times collecting frogspawn was one of the rites of spring. Despite the vernally-challenged circumstances I was tempted to rescue some of the spawn and put it in a tank so that we can watch the tadpoles develop yet again. I think it unlikely it will survive in the very temporary morass that its parents have mistakenly picked, so surely it's OK in this case?
I suppose it's a bit like bringing the catkins and the sticky buds inside. It's a link with the real world. A tie with the seasons. Richard Louv, in his excellent book Last Child in the Woods, wrote about today's children suffering 'Nature Deficit Disorder', but I believe it goes much further than that - I think a large proportion of the adult population are suffering too. Despite the millions that watch Springwatch on television, there seem to be very few people out walking - actually looking for, smelling, touching, and most of all living, the real thing. I don't know how to change that. But I do think that if passive watching triumphs over the joy of real living and action we are soon going to be bringing children into a world not disimilar from the frogspawns' muddy puddle.