Friday, 2 March 2012
After saying yesterday that Winter was still at Cotter Force, walking over the fields after lunch today the sun was really warm on our backs and you got the distinct promise of warm sunshine to come. These days - days of electric blankets, wood burning stoves, central heating, good food and plenty of warm coats and scarves - we can still appreciate the warmth of the late Winter sun. How much more so people in, say, the eighteenth century, when most of the population worked on the land - people of John Clare's time when there was no birth control and families were large (what else was there to do on cold Winter's nights?), when feeding the children was a priority and the farm labourers usually had a sack round their shoulders to ward off the cold and if there was a wet day they often had to stay at home (hence the expression 'saving for a rainy day'). In my neck of the woods - East Anglia - the winds blew straight in off the Urals, we used to say. There is nothing more cutting than an East wind; so how their hearts must have sung at these first signs that winter and spring are having their yearly battle. When it gets to March you know that Spring is going to win at some point
A song thrush was having a practice in the ash tree in the pasture. Not the full song, you understand - just a few little phrases, like the soloist in an orchestra who practises the hard bits over and over again before the full performance. And a robin was belting out a full song - not the cold, shrill song of Winter but a full-throated song of great beauty designed for the dual purpose of attracting a mate and warning off all other suitors.
The curlew seem to have already paired up and are circling round, calling to one another. It will be another couple of months before they nest in the long grass of our fields, but already they are bonding. The flocks have gone and they are in twos.
The tree full of rooks nests is having a good clear out. Twigs are being rejected and thrown down to the ground with lots of cawing and squawking; housekeeping for the rook is a noisy business and involves a lot of falling out.
Wild geese flew over this morning. You hear them before you see them. They fly in perfect formation and this skein were flying North, which the farmer always says is a good sign. Although if the weather forecast is to be believed they will soon be flying back South again as it is set to turn colder with the risk of snow after the weekend.
But Winter had better watch out. Try as it may, it cannot beat the lengthening days, the early rising sun, the heating up of the land (our neighbour is sowing his corn today). The fields are beginning to have lambs in them. Traditionally lambing is late up here but we saw a few yesterday on our return from Sedbergh and soon the fields will be full of them and the air will be full of the cries of mother sheep calling their naughty lambs back as they charge across the field, stop, turn and scamper back for no other reason than that it is fun to do.
There are baby rabbits in the fields. Tess dreams of catching one but is useless. This afternoon, she chased one into the wood across the beck, only for it to emerge a few yards down and pelt towards us while she went in the opposite direction. The farmer and I stood still, it stopped and then shot back into the woods again. Little did it know that we would have been no more adept at catching it than Tess is. Poor rabbits - they must live in fear and trembling of all the creatures that prey on them. The wood is full of rabbit holes but it is not altogether safe - I am sure that the fox knows exactly where they are, and the stoat too.
I can't let today's post go without a mention of the brave PC David Rathband, who died yesterday. I think he had captured all our hearts and had become such a hero. How very sad it is that he found it unbearable to live. As someone said on the news this morning - the whole nation is mourning him.