Country diary: A golden secret by the side of the road
The flash of yellow is almost hidden from the roadside, a sort of blink-and-you-miss-it as the cars whoosh by. With his sharp eyes, my dad had spotted the colourful interruption the day before, and wants to share his discovery with me and my mum. Over the crash barrier, our feet land softly on last year’s dead leaves. A gentle hillside swoops down in a cascade of winter aconites. They are a golden secret, the biggest patch we’ve ever seen in Scotland. Probably escapers from someone’s garden, we surmise, which have thrived in this small scrap of woodland.
The start of the year has been grey and raw, so the aconites are a welcome whisper that there will always be fresh growth. But, among the flowers, there’s a huge amount of litter too. Crisp packets, plastic bottles, drinks cans. The ones that have been there the longest, covered in dirt and half-submerged by leaves, blend most with the landscape. We’re on a corner of the road, and it’s obvious that they’ve been tossed out of people’s windows – whoever threw them unaware that their rubbish would land in what would become, for a brief moment, a field of gold. My initial calm is replaced by worry for the badgers, foxes and other creatures that surely live nearby and now have to deal with this debris, on top of the traffic that often makes unidentifiable scraps of their bodies.
We cross back over the road and head into the adjacent woods, where clots of snowdrops blanket the ground and yews droop to give us shelter. There’s a kind of beauty here that needs to be teased out from the dullness of the day, that unfurls the longer you look at it. But it’s the yellow that lodges in my mind, like sunshine spilled on the ground.
On the way back, we gather up as much litter as we can carry, clutching cans and cloudy glass bottles, putting some in poo bags that we still have in our pockets, despite the fact that our beloved dog died last year. In weeks, or maybe days, the flowers will be over, and will bide their time until next year – a promise spreading among the rubbish.
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