Every winter has its challenges. This year, the grey skies and rain have felt utterly relentless. The earth is saturated and rain is puddling easily. The winds of the last few days have been exhausting.
Yet there are moments of beauty all around us, nature glowing in splashes of golden winter sunshine. This photograph of hazel catkins, dancing in the breeze, the rich blue sky behind, reminds to us how limited is our human perspective. The cycle of the year is turning. Indeed, yesterday I found the first snowdrops in flower at Sun Rising …
There are a few pockets of snowdrops planted ‘in the green’, already in flower, but the ones I found were the first of the year to flower from bulbs planted. As snowdrops don’t like wet soil, I suspect this year there may not be as many as we would hope – which made it all more delightful to see these little ones, still low in the grass, hiding from the cold.
This week we cut the main car park hedge at Sun Rising. Although this removes most of its chance to flower, it’s essential to keep its shape and density. In the thick tangle of branches and twigs at its heart, tree sparrows, blue tits, dunnocks, great tits, greenfinches, wrens, chaffinches and yellowhammers are sheltering from the cold wind, fluffed up and chattering.
If you manage to visit, wrap up and wear boots that can cope with muddy soil. Make sure you’re warm enough to be able to pause. You may find one of our resident robins flies close. In this cold weather, with food scarce, they don’t mind the company of other robins around the hedgerows, trees and feeders, and they will often stop to sing. This is their secondary song – an expression of companionship, of sharing the news – and it’s quite unlike the springtime territorial concerto. A gentle and richly tuneful warble, it fills the cold air with hope and calm.