There is nothing like snow for showing up the contours of the land. Driving over "the tops" for the last fortnight has been a feast for the eyes: not just the beauty of the white landscape, but also the fact that at a distance one could see ever dip and hollow in every hill. As you come over one particular road you can see Arkengarthdale on your right and Coverdale on your left. Arkengarthdale is a landscape that is largely man-made. Yes, of course, the Dales were originally created by Glacial action, but this particular dale held a commodity which was at one time much sought after - lead. The old leadmining workings have been ruined for a century, but the heughs - or "hushes" - deep channels down the sides of the hills where lead miners dammed the bottom and then flushed the lead out with water - can always be seen and never more so than when the land is covered in snow.
We went to bed last night with the fields still snow-covered, although when the farmer took Tess out for her last walk (there is another story there for on these dark nights he goes out with a storm lantern in his hand and from the kitchen window he reminds me of Good King Wenceslas) he came in remarking that it felt as thought the temperature was above freezing.
He was right. This morning the fields are green except where it lingers - particularly in the furrows. This area was known for its rig and furrow method of farming, where the ploughed land was heaped up in lines leaving the dips in between (thus giving slightly more surface area). You no long notice the rig and furrow system, except when there is snow on the ground.
The other farming method which still stands out this morning is the thousand-year-old cultivation terraces, which also litter our fields. Farmers produced this terracing - it is still done in hilly areas - I have seen it a lot in China - mainly on common fields. These lynchets, as they are called round here - show up so clearly this morning in their green and white stripes.
At the bird table there is much less activity - the board of sunflower hearts that the farmer has been putting out for our fourteen + blackbirds, has been pecked clean this morning, by a couple of pheasants, while the blackbirds have fallen out around them.
Casserole for lunch is in the oven - the first rhubarb of the season is gently stewing with preserved ginger for pudding - the log fire is lit - Country File is on the TV any minute now - and outside the first vestiges of Spring are in the air - can't be bad.