It's nine thirty on a breezy Monday morning and I am off to the Feed Merchants for the farmer. Fancy coming with me? You do? Good. Well hop into the passenger seat and we'll be off.
The lane looks so "Winter" - mud on the verge, lank grass, the last stems of dead cow parsley tottering in the stiff breeze, swags of brown ash keys hanging heavily in the trees - oh look there's a big clump of snowdrops - I guess someone has dumped their garden rubbish there a few years ago and this is the result. There they sit, jiggling their heads in the breeze, by the side of the beck bridge - a perfect spot. I couldn't have chosen it better myself.
Let's stop and have a chat to this gardener, working on the hedge round his garden. I want to ask him how it is he has such a wealth of primroses in his hedge. What is the secret of his success? He tells me that he leaves them to flower and develop the seed heads; then when the heads are really dry he strims the lot and thus scatters the seed everywhere. I shall try that this year in an effort to spread my primroses and cowslips along the hedge.
Off we go again and suddenly - there they are - the first real sign of Spring - a field of ewes and new born lambs belonging to John and Sue, farming neighbours. I manage to take one photograph before the mums call the kids to order.
There is a very pale sky and a watery sun today. Among the ploughed fields patches of water lie like mirrors, reflecting the pale sky. In the stubble field cock pheasants glean between the stalks, safe for another year now that the shooting season is over.
We'll stop in this lay-by on the brow of the hill and have a look around us. Ahead lies the fell, with its covering of dark heather. To our right, on a mound, sits Middleham Castle - the sun catching the ruins. What a sight it must have been in all its glory in Richard III's day. I wonder if he ever stood on this spot and looked at his favourite home.
Hundreds of gulls rise, as one, from the winter wheat as we watch - their raucous calls breaking the silence.
Off we go again, down the hill, over the Ure and on to the main road. Blackbirds scratch on the verges, flinging sods of grass to one side in their search for worms. A little further on, a black rabbit hops nonchallantly along the hedgerow - I wonder, is it an escaped pet rabbit?
It is ten minutes to ten as we pass by the church and then by the house where the late Richard Whiteley (of Countdown fame) used to live. Two jackdaws guard one of the chimneys - they see it as a potential nest site I expect.
Further along two rooks swoop purposefully across the road in front of us, each carrying a twig in its beak. Looks as though nest-building has begun in earnest. Suddenly, without warning, a huge clump of purple crocus appear on the side of the road, their petals open in the sun to reveal deep orange stamens. Do you remember boiled sweets called "Grandmother's pincushions" - well these crocus are the same silky, shiny purple.
A coot crosses the road, taking long, serious strides, its green legs and feet looking totally unsuitable for walking on roads. Sorry, but whenever I see a coot I think of Tennyson's "Brook". I was born a stone's throw from his birthplace, so he has to be my favourite poet - and I love "Brook":-
I come from haunt of coot and hern,
To make a sudden sally -
To sparkle out among the fern
And bicker down the valley." There - that's got that off my chest!
All around us, on the hills, the heather is being burnt; plumes of smoke waft about in the air and drift along in the breeze. The faint, smoky smell reaches us in the car.
In the fields farmers are muck-spreading, the manure heaps steaming fiercely as the bucket digs into the pile - the pungent smell enters our nostrils a few hundred yards further on! Other farmers are harrowing and one chap is rolling beautiful green stripes the length of his meadow.
We turn off the road and down the lane and over the little beck - orange willow branches mark the becks course as far as the eye can see. In the field of winter wheat and gaggle of Canada geese are grazing. We pull up outside the door of the Feed Merchant. Our journey of ten miles or so is done. Hope you've enjoyed the ride. Come again - I like a bit of company.