I was on the Shropshire hills for empty classroom day [ECD] this year, and stumbled across a year happy-looking 6 group from Hertfordshire. Rather splendidly, they were having nothing to do with ECD as they were enjoying ECW: empty classroom week – staying at a field centre in the Onny valley. Well done those schools who persist in seeing the value for children of such experiences. No one in the group seemed to have heard of ECD.
There were also bus loads of children in the Cardingmill valley, all clip-boarded up, fighting for space with pensioners in the National Trust toilets. I thought to myself, I hope you're not here for a course in hydrology, as the streams are barely running in some places. The elderly heading for the waterfall higher up in the hills might also have been disappointed.
The final encounters were with a skylark, perched on some burnt-out heather about 10m away, singing as if the world were theirs, and a cuckoo, out of sight, but not sound. It was my first cuckoo of the year and may well be the last as one per year is the usual rate these deprived days – thanks, in large part, to the EU Commission's toleration of the spring butchery of song birds in the Mediterranean, that goes by the name of 'traditional practice' .