Cowslips – yes, I remember them. They take me back to the summer of 1966 when I was supposed to be revising for end of year exams at Saffron Walden Teacher Training College. It was sunny and warm, so I went with a group of friends to revise in the sun at the bottom of the sportsfield.
The song around at the time was Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks. That’s what we started singing when we’d had enough of the revision, then some of us got over or through the boundary hedge and made our way along the adjacent disused railway line for a delightful ramble in the countryside.
The railways had undergone severe cuts in the 1960s, thanks to Dr. Beeching, and there had once been a station in Saffron Walden. I don’t recall finding that but do remember the large number of wild flowers growing amongst the disused tracks. One of these was cowslips, and it’s the first time I remember looking at a wild flower that I’d only seen before as a picture in a book and recognising it.
Of course, I picked some – we all did – and we took them back to our rooms in college and put them in water in a glass or coffee mug, feeling slightly guilty because we knew you were not supposed to pick wild flowers.
I also remember the delicious feeling of trespassing on railway property – there were “No Tresspassers” signs up – but we didn’t care. There was no-one about, it was warm and sunny, we needed that break from revision and we felt we could do pretty much anything!
The name Cowslip may originate from cowsdung, as this flower grows in boggy or wet ground. Cow’s dung and the word “slip” offer quite a graphic descriptive name!