It had been a while since we’d done any gruffalo hunting. It’s harder during the winter, partly because there is evidence that gruffalos hibernate (“the Gruffalo snored and snored and snored”), but mainly because the kids just want to stay in and play Minecraft or watch crazy videos on YouTube of repeated Lego train smashes. Normal stuff.
But then, just a few days ago, my Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust quarterly envelope of goodies (I know, my horizons are kind of limited these days) dropped through our letterbox. Or would have if we had a letterbox.
And there on page 14 came inspiration. “Spring Walk,” it said. “Let Gloucestershire’s golden wild daffodils light up your path through Gwen and Vera’s Fields and Betty Daw’s Wood.” Hardly vicious predators with raking claws or one of those obscure marine invertebrates with enough venom to kill the entire wildebeest population of the Serengeti – and which Steve Backshall would happily engage in combat mano-a-mano – but there are definitely daffodils in The Gruffalo, I thought. Or was it yellow flag irises? Well, to hell with it – Mungo and I would go anyway, even if the nature reserves in question sounded like they’d be selling jars of broad bean pickle and wild strawberry jam.
“DON’T WANT TO!” Mungo screamed, when I suggested it. “DON’T WANT TO GO ON DAFFODIL TRAIL.”
I had to think fast. Grabbing a small tupperware box, I started to fill it ostentatiously with biscuits “We’ll take Oreos,” I said, doing my best imitation of the snake with the apple in the Garden of Eden.
It just about swung the day. That, and the balance bike, the Brio trains in his pocket and the £500K in his bank account. If he had one.
The daffodil trail was over the other side of Newent, some 40 minutes away, and by the time we got there, Mungo was snoring like a brown bear in the first stages of his winter torpor. A prod and a poke, and he awoke in a shockingly grumpy mood and gave me a look rather worse than the one he’d shot earlier when it first dawned on him that a blissful afternoon smashing up his own Lego train was about to be rudely interrupted.
There was only one thing for it – he’d have to go on my shoulders. That never fails to cheer him up. As you can see.
Just down the road, at the entrance to Gwen and Vera’s Fields Nature Reserve (no jars of chutney for sale, I can report) we saw our first daffodils. Damp, boggy meadows on either side were awash with small yellow flowers, pint-sized versions of the domesticated versions in your garden.
Entrance to the meadows was clearly discouraged, so I lay down and stuck my camera through the gate to take photos, while Mungo saw an opportunity and jumped up and down on my back as if I were a trampoline.
This definitely cheered him up, and soon he was making great progress on his own two legs. Despite the springtime sunshine, the ambience in the wood was that winter still hadn’t gone for good. The tracks were boggy, the trees leafless and the birds mostly quiet – perhaps they were still spooked by the solar eclipse earlier in the day.
There were lots of daffodils on the forest floor, however. Mungo ran from one lovely clump to another, pleased as Punch, pointing them out to me as if I’d somehow missed the one thing we’d come here for. “LOOK, THERE’S THEM DAFFODILS, DADDY!”
At a bridge over a small stream, I had to quell a minor rebellion, repelling “We go back to the car now?” with a counter-thrust of an Oreo biscuit, with a promise of more to come should we make it through the next wood (that would be Betty Daw’s). Mungo seemed mollified – and promptly wet his pants (we’re potty training).
More daffodils, and yes more Oreos followed. At the exit to Betty Daw’s, I heard my first chiffchaff of the spring, though it was almost drowned out by the M50 motorway. And yeah, I know it’s nothing remarkable – almost anyone you care to mention who’s got a Twitter account heard a chiffchaff before me in 2015. Even Justin Bieber. (note: I don’t follow him myself, I must have spotted a retweet),
That was almost it – we were a day too early for the promised land of ‘Teas’, and besides one of us had more than had his fill of biscuits. It only remained to get snarled up in Gloucester’s rush-hour traffic on the way home and to start pondering the next Oreo-fuelled adventure.