Snowdrops were late putting in an appearance this year. I've often found them around here in flower in mid-January, but the ground was still deep frozen at that time.Now they are at their best and today we saw some very fine displays in Teesdale. It's a plant that's most common in river valleys around here, no doubt because the small bulbs that proliferate after flowering are swept down river and thrive in the alluvial soils when they are stranded after flood waters recede. This was one of many well established patches in the woodlands beside the River Tees, between Egglestone and the Meeting of the Waters, where the Tees meets the River Greta. There were even a few honeybees around, visiting the flowers, in this afternoon's sunshine.
It's unlikely that snowdrop is a native British species. It comes from milder parts of Europe and is what would be known today as an alien species. It is known to have been cultivated in gardens in 1597 but the first record of it in the wild only dates from 1778. Today most people look forward to the appearance of the flowers in the wild in late winter but if it was a new introduction, rather that one that has been here for at least four centuries, no doubt there would be a lot of press hysteria about 'yet another alien species invading our countryside'. I wonder how many garden species that are currently escaping into the wild will be viewed with similar affection to the snowdrop four centuries from now?
Snowdrops are often associated with churchyards and it may be that they were often deliberately planted there because their pure white flowers are associated with Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary, which takes place on February 2nd., when the plant is always in flower. These plants were photographed in St. James Churchyard, just outside of Hamsterley village on the edge of Weardale, this afternoon.
As we were leaving (as you can see from the weak winter sunshine shadow, at 2 o'clock) I noticed this sundial on the porch of the church. The inscription at the top reads "Man Fleeth as it were a Shadow" - a timely reminder that at this time of year, on the threshold of spring, there is so much to see and so little time....."