Reminder of Coltsfoot
The other day walking around the pond in woodland near my home, I was attracted by a clump of yellow, hugging the ground.Early flowering spring, the Coltsfoot.
Immediately I was taken back to the time of boyhood.
Life in the austere aftermath of World War II was far from easy.
In the Industrial North of England, children had few toys of their own though they shared what they had with others. We also had places for play including a side street containing 3 terraced houses where the occupants acted as street wardens. Cars rarely ever came along this street. It was the play street for children. Here we held our running and skipping and jumping games. Footballs vied with tennis balls. We made makeshift go-carts out of old pram axels and rope, using wooden fruit boxes for the cart body. We staged plays and shows and entertained the adults who kept watch of us. It was often a joyful and very noisy place!
Nearby, the old Ruby Mill provided the best Adventure Playground you could ever find. This old cotton mill alongside its neighbour the Longfield,(always shortened to ‘Longy’) had served giant King Cotton until the decline of its production.
The mill, opened in 1889, was demolished in 1946, though had closed in 1930. All that survived where 4 concrete mounds of varying heights, which were the ‘engine beds’ from where was generated all the energy to power the mill.
By the time we children took them over they were renamed ‘Indian beds’, the perfect place to either catch Indians or lure cowboys into danger!
The way Mother Nature had taken over the ground of the former mill, we were gifted with a great area to enjoy the open air. From Spring to Autumn we hid in dens in the earth, ran hospitals to cater for budding doctors and nurses, ran buses along imaginary routes, waged war on cowboys, made camps as RedIndians, built dams so that spring water could flood the area. Occasionally we fought mock battles between the ‘Ruby gang and the ‘Longy gang’. We always made sure that our troops were far enough away to prevent real harm happening.
In a time of austerity we found amazing things with which to feed our imaginations and develop a sense of fun and working together,. We developed our social skills in a natural way. Sometimes we moved into commercial ventures!
My friend Michael and I would gather bunches of Coltsfoot and Dandelions. We would then arranged them into ‘bouquets’ wrapped in copies of the Daily Despatch newspaper and tried to sell them on the streets of our area. If it wasn’t a fruitful day we always had the fall back position of granny and various local ‘aunties and uncles’. They could be relied on to put a halfpenny or penny into our pockets.
In our adventure playground we saw so much nature taking over everything and we were introduced to wild flowers, grasses, insects and all that nature had to offer and which educated us in permanent and exciting ways.
Amongst the flowers which came to our attention were Coltsfoot.
There were lots of dandelions, buttercups, daisy and two colours of clover.
However, the little Coltsfoot was my favourite. The poem I have written below tries to say why.
When I saw that little drift of Coltsfoot, this memory came flooding back and with it, the remembrance of how, as children with little material resource, we found a wealth of gift to us on our own Ruby ground and a way of sharing it together which taught us friendship, kindness, care of others and occasionally how to have a very good ‘row’ which dealt with some of the tensions of childhood.
I was also taught that nature has so much to reveal about what I came later to know as creation and Creator God.
Finally, in the beautiful little, gloriously yellow/gold coltsfoot, I learned that in little, sometimes overlooked things, there is a joy and beauty which enriches life. The end of my poem is my comment on that.
Did you notice me
as you walked by,
a splash of yellow,
a jewel hugging the soil
I have gnarled fingers
but not yet.
My flower needs no leafy announcement.
Yet I am not showy
like others who herald springtime.
I am not like cousin Dandelion
and share nothing with blousy,
Tiny, I am easily overlooked.
But often it is simple things
which touch the soul
with colour and warmth.
[Mr G 27th March 2023]