The snow has left us hardly at all. It lies with its crisp topping icing the roofs and carpeting the ground everywhere. It has blanketed the farm in a strange sort of silence. This morning, the farmer being away for the day, I ventured forth with Tess on a long lead to walk round the fields. Well muffled up in long socks, woolly hat, scarf and gloves I soon realised that I was greatly overdressed. By the time I reached the first field if I had closed my eyes to shut out the snow I could have been walking on a fine Spring day.
The eerie silence is broken first by a small flock of long tailed tits working the hedge on my right. They flit up and down the bare black branches of the hawthorn looking for food and chatting busily as they go. I stand and watch as they reach, then pass me on their search.
Here and there rabbit tracks criss-cross the snow, particularly near to the barn known to have a rabbit warren under the floor. And across the corner of the same field the straight track of what might be a fox. The farmer has seen one several times lately, and if it is a vixen then she may well have young cubs by now. She will find searching for food for them very hard in this weather.
An army helicopter buzzes overhead, breaking the silence - as Ronald Blythe would say 'like an angry dragonfly'. But it is soon gone out of sight over the moor and the silence returns. By the plantain the snow has melted at the edge under the trees and as I reach there several fieldfares rise up and fly off. I see a patch of rotting crab apples have been revealed so no doubt they were picking amongst those for any bits of apple which were still eatable.
The beck is running swiftly, black against its snow edging. Where it snakes its way through the wood there are already celandine leaves showing here and there. This is where I usually find the first lesser celandine of Spring, and the first Marsh Marigold - both a little way off yet!
But the alder trees, which stand with their feet in the beck and their heads in the clouds have already got that red sheen which tells me that their sap is rising.
Two mistlethrushes stand alert on the hedge as I pass by the steaming manure heap. I can't help feeling that they were probably scratching about in it before I came along.
By the pasture gate the wild honeysuckle is already showing roundels of green buds from its sheltered place inside the hawthorn hedge. On the other side the blackthorn lives up to its name with not a bud in sight yet.
As we reach the farm again the sun turns hazy. The long tailed tit family have reached the bird table and are busily eating the fat balls. The washing hangs limply on the clothes line - there is not a breath of wind. As we go in I think about the South of England, where a Winter Storm is forecast for tonight with rain, hail, sleet, snow and gale force winds. Keep warm and batten down the hatches down there. We shall be thinking of you but also hoping that storm doesn't stretch up the country as far as us.