Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Primroses on the move!

Is it too late to tell you an Easter story? No, surely not.
It's also a spring story, and, as the chilly weather seems to be encouraging the springtime flowers to linger, let's celebrate the bluebells and primroses.

Do you remember me telling you about Perivale Wood? It's an unspoilt area of ancient woodland on the outskirts of London owned, rather unexpectedly, by the Selbourne Society. To visit Perivale Wood is to step into another world . . . a rural haven that time forgot. Lovingly tended by volunteers, it's a paradise for wild flowers, birds and mammals.
And the highlight of the year in Perivale Wood . . .?
Springtime . . . and the bluebells!

Last week, on a visit to Perivale to celebrate the bluebells, a friend and I came across a totally unexpected bank of primroses. It came as a breathtaking surprise . . . I was certain I'd never seen it before.
It later transpired that the plants had been rescued. One of the volunteers, realising that a neighbour's front garden was about to disappear under concrete, had asked if she could to dig up the threatened primroses and replant them in the wood. The plants had gloriously repaid their rescuer and, as we saw for ourselves, defied anyone to walk past without pausing in admiration.

"Do you know what they remind me of?" said my friend.
I didn't . . . so he told me this story.

When my friend had been a small boy, living in Devon, the local vicar had moved to a parish in the City of London. The urban environment had proved quite a contrast to the rural charms of the Devon countryside and, come Easter, the vicar had thought wistfully of the primroses that covered the banks of the country lanes in his previous parish. Might it be possible, he wondered, to get some of them to London?

In those more innocent days, before the stringent rules of Health and Safety, before the widespread anxieties at the thought of children travelling on their own, this problem had been overcome by two resourceful young boys with a bright idea. My friend and his elder brother, had, with the collaboration of their family and the local community, devised a plan whereby they'd take the countryside to the City.

First, they needed to find a congenial lorry driver who was bound for London. Then they needed to pick the primroses, bind them in bunches with raffia, and secure the numerous bunches to a long pole. Finally, they needed to persuade the lorry driver to give them a lift to the outskirts of London so that they could then take the underground to the City.

And, believe it or not, for several years, this is exactly what happened. On their own, two young Devon schoolboys, bearing a pole festooned with primroses, would travel by lorry from Devon to London and thence, by underground, to an expectant City church. Each Easter, thanks to their adventures, the church would celebrate Easter with a display of primroses straight from the country lanes of the distant West Country.
As for my friend and his brother, having borne their precious burden triumphantly amidst the startled passengers on the underground, not once did
they fail to get back to the lorry depot before their driver was scheduled to depart.

Could it happen now? Would it be possible, in 2010, for two young country boys to hitch a lorry ride from Devon to London, and bear a primrose-laden pole on the underground from the outskirts to the heart of the City?
I rather doubt it. Whether or not that's progress, I leave it for you to judge.
But isn't it a lovely story?