The Search for Spring and New Beginnings
by Angus Birditt
Perching on the edge of my sit, legs and feet slouched across the aisle, head crouched over my book, all feeling rather flustered and close to vomiting from the relentless swaying of the train chugging it’s way southwards. My journey takes me through the heart of North Wales, through endless small ex-mining villages, out towards the border with England, and back again into the spine of the Welsh countryside. The purpose of my immediate trip was an impulse, but one that was embedded within me. The need to travel and identify oneself with the surrounding landscape, which I had only recently now called home, was an ever-remitting urge. Movement never fails to shed light on one’s perspective. And perhaps I was journeying in search of it as well. Every so often, I try to recuperate some consciousness by looking up and gazing out, through the greasy-fingered window and beyond into the pitching green fields. Those fields look an oasis from in here. Fields lined with thin feeble hedges pass to equally skeletal ash copses, they, like me, still think it’s winter. The horizon is an endless speckle of red-bricked nests, many probably old farmhouses, now bestowed with bright white window frames gleaming against the old rusty facades. Small clusters of cream dot the foreground, new spring lambs make for a constant excitement, dizzy from encircling their mothers before diving in for their morning ration of milk. Ploughed turf passes to harrowed planes, each an enormous square of field showing a different pattern of mulched mud and straw.
We are told that winter is leaving and spring is on its way. The incessant sharp bitter drifts of Storm Emma has since passed, come again, and then left once more. Her embers of chilling wind are ever present, stiffening bones as it slices its way through the squeaky steel hinges of multiple window and rattling door. Slithers of optimistic sunlight increasingly try to breach the drab vastness above. Is it now time we see our latecomers, the daffodils, bloom their familiar vivacious crowns of yellows and oranges?
‘This station is Chirk. Next stop, Gobowen.’ The train forces time to hasten, not one to wait around for any late flora. It splits the landscape in two; one side now bathed in refreshing sunshine, the other bleak and seemingly still wounded by Her throngs of ice. It is as though I am passing straight down the middle of the changing of seasons. Spring brightening the right hand side of the train, while winter shadows the left. What really defines the line between the end of winter and the resurrection of spring? As much as it seems to me, it’s certainly not this railway line joining Holyhead to Cardiff Central. Having been on this train for a handful of hours now, it was apparent that the one remarkable aspect of the journey so far – and one that brought both sides of the train together in this seasonal progression – was the endless sprawl of aged oaks. Amongst the young silver birches that lined each station platform we pass; the large buddleias that mark their start and end, the pines and firs that mark the line between golf course and railway line, and the thick bands of Leyland cypress that wall settlement to farmland, the oaks were an ever-defining presence of the landscape. Scattered amid the furniture of life, the oaks signal their attention high above any farming or residential dwelling, each with their unique fractural display of enchanting limbs. Their gaunt fronds are thicker than the last time I saw an oak, only last week. Seemingly less defined than their earlier frames, each oak now showed a more prolific, dense black silhouette against the immeasurable canvas of sky. The majority of these oaks were elderly, and if according to our own human characteristics, should be seen as wise old creatures, those that should be accounted for and observed appropriately. It seemed that they had collectively chosen this as the start of their new beginnings. Each one now a blooming bush of young buds. Was this the signal to the start of spring? For me at least, it was promising irrespective of time, light, or weather. But who would look towards oaks as the font of all seasonal-knowledge? I hope more than the number I was
‘This station is Gobowen.’ The sun had now penetrated into the right hand side of the carriage, soaking the two rows of chairs and my neck in a blanket of intense muggy heat. I continue eyeing each oak as they wiz by. Each and every flash of thicket a populous of biodiversity. It was wonderful to see so many of them littered amongst the endless countryside. Many of which darted the middle of arable fields, only preserved by the forgiving tractors bending their tillers around their furrowed trunks. Blossom! Looks like a Cherry blossom from here. The first of its kind I witness this year, reaching it’s tentacles through an old gate adjoined to an equally ancient-looking stable block. The peppering of white and pink against the tired red of the rusty gate delight the senses. How wonderful was the blossoming and budding of trees along the entirety of my journey, a certain sign of new beginnings. The cycle of life has begun again, sprouted from a long arduous
winter. How we define the passing of winter and the rebirth of spring is far from definite. It is evolving, recovering, biological, scientific, and personal. Yes, we have Equinoxes and Solstices that tell us the physiological distances from the sun to the equator, but for many it is a waiting game for new life. New life in ourselves and in the nature that surrounds us. Time shifts and light lengthens. We live our days yearning for this moment. Nature and human intuition are warmed with the incoming weather. Spirits are lifted with the sound of new migration in the sky above. Each and every one of us, fauna and flora alike, has it’s own affiliation with the coming of spring, and with it, it’s hope of a new and prosperous life.
Brown Trout, Lentils, Wild Garlic & Kale
Trout, scaled gutted & filleted
300g Brown Lentils
100g Wild Garlic Leaves
200g Curly Kale
Red Onion, Couple
Olive Oil, Extra Virgin
Raw Cider Vinegar
1. Pre-heat over to 200C. Wash and roughly chop kale and place onto baking tray with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 10-15 minutes.
2. Soak the lentils over previous night if uncooked, or for cooked canned lentils heat in saucepan for time allocated on tin.
3. Drain lentils, then leave aside in bowl.
4. Finely chop red onion and radishes, add to lentils.
5. Make vinaigrette with three parts extra virgin olive oil, two parts raw cider vinegar, teaspoonful of mustard, and a juice of a lemon. Mix, then add to lentils.
6. Add the kale into the lentil mix.
7. For the trout, heat a little sunflower oil in a non-stick frying pan. Place the trout skin side down until the flesh on top is cooked a third in from edge, should take around 2-3 minutes. Then flip over for the same time.
8. Whilst cooking, blend wild garlic leaves, olive oil and salt into puree.
9. Plate up with lentils first, trout, then place wild garlic puree over top.
RIVER | WOODLAND | SEA | LAND
THE BRIDGE LODGE X HAWARDEN ESTATE FARM SHOP
The Bridge Lodge and Hawarden Estate Farm Shop are teaming up this year to host 4 unique, seasonal supper clubs. Each will encapsulate a different part of our diverse landscape, using traditional cooking methods and ingredients sourced from the local landscape. A further three dates to be released shortly for Woodland, Sea and Land Supper Clubs, stay tuned.
Join Angus and Lilly cooking fish over fire and enjoy a three-course menu and cocktail inspired by our island's rivers, using the wild ingredients that grow within its landscape.