The lumps and hollows of Mousehold Heath, with some gorse in bloom and robins singing, while blue tits whizzed back and forth in easy sight, were chock-a-block with citizens walking their dogs and children on a blustery, humid day. The Sun was out and it was a joy to feel the warmth of it through the back of my coat.
Daffodils are about to burst open. Two or three of the shoots were already unfurling the first yellow petals down by Bishop’s Bridge. The river bank there will be flooded with yellow in a few days.
The allotments were busy with the plot holders doing early spring work. The allotments I passed today have a wonderful aspect, facing south-west over the city. They must be highly sought after.
There was rain most of the night and into first light of morning, adding to the flooding of fields, paddocks and open ground around Norwich. The Marriott Way was impassable just north of Hellesdon. Beyond Tavenham the power of the running flood water could be seen in the folds of its surface as it flowed fast between willow trees, forming wakes from the immobile trunks and as it surged under the arches of old stone bridges.
Environment Agency workers were out measuring the water’s depth near Shallowbrook Lakes, where the River Tud had already inundated the lane. At Ringland more heavy flooding spilled from the meandering course of the Wensum. The banks of the river had burst and gulls floated happily in a large flock to the east of the old bridge and swans graced the floods to its west.
Snowdrops are found everywhere, even close to the worst of the flooding. One particular domestic garden on the west of Tavenham is blanketed with thousands of pendulous white flowers.
At Costessey a cherry tree has the first of its delicate pink-tinged white flowers open. The other small flowers are like tiny balls of snow, but are about to unfold. The morning is mild; perfect for cycling were it not for the flooded roads.
Daffodil shoots are now seen at every turn, on each roadside, in every garden border.
While the large water fowl are content to drift freely on the temporary inland seas, smaller birds are busy pairing up and nest building. Blue tits and great tits are active. The malevolent jay goes about its furtive business, swooping low into the undergrowth by the road.
At Eaton Park, by the bandstand there is a wonderful echoing of conversation off the encircling arcade. There is a queue of women, mostly in pairs, waiting to order coffee from the makeshift take-away service at the café. On the fixed bench seats that neatly surround the domed bandstand, women are sitting and exchanging their news and opinions. A small group of toddlers dressed in bright rainwear are playing happily. They add ringing tones to the burble of conversation and occasional outbreak of laughing.
At Churchfield Garden the café has sufficient business for the good-natured proprietor. He has a radio playing songs from the 1970s and 1980s. Every now and then a customer asks him what the tune is, as if he is the DJ selecting the playlist. He seems knowledgeable enough and engages with an elderly man who tells him anecdotes prompted by the recognition of an old hit.
Again the benches have various combinations of people meeting with disposal cups charged with tea or coffee. This park, closer to the business centre of Norwich has a wider range of people. Noticeably more men, some of whom are clearly out of work, or low on money.
I get the sense that for many people, this third lockdown is a permanent Sunday, but without church services to attend, or heavy lunches to prepare.
What is so heart-warming to see is the number of people out walking, as well as hearing the sound of conversations blending in the winter air.
Chilly sunbeams caught the trees with such intensity that the bark shone. In Chapelfield Gardens this mighty specimen’s complex skeleton is revealed.
Although the temperature was barely above freezing, the first crocuses were pushing though to join dangling snow drops and daffodil shoots. What will trigger the opening of the daffodils? Will it be warmth or light that they respond to? There has been the rain to ensure the earth is soft and will separate at their insistence. We wait for the fanfare of silent yellow trumpets to confirm our progress.
Magnolia buds, sticky to touch are fattening, their pinched tips speared with pink.
All the trees are beginning to show some suggestion of colour now as leaves start to form. The townhouses have just a few more weeks to enjoy unscreened sunsets.
There is little traffic today, except that squeezed into the hours at the start and end of the commercial day. I head out to complete a couple of minor errands. The biggest danger is pedestrians stepping into the street without looking for cyclists as they considerately make space for each other.
When I cut through the perimeter of Eaton Park I notice the car park is full and the footpaths busy. In the line of trees running by Southside Avenue starlings are agitating to fly before the onset of evening. Their squabbling is a terrific noise.
I note that infection rates and related deaths are beginning to fall across the United Kingdom. We must hold our discipline and see this through. On the Isle of Man, once a stronghold for Vikings between Ireland and Britain, the pubs are open and a normal life has resumed as there are no known cases in its population of 82,000.
The other local difficulty has taken a worrying turn as Loyalist extremists in Northern Ireland have begun a campaign of intimidation against the local government workers who have the job of processing paperwork on goods moving between the six counties and Britain as a result of Johnson’s farcical Brexit deal.