Tune into the news today and you will hear all about the ‘Beast from the East’; freezing winds arriving from Siberia, caused by a polar vortex. Phrases such as ‘3 feet of snow’ and ‘minus 15 degrees’ are being throw about on a whim at the moment, but the true extreme of the weather is yet to be seen.
Unfortunately for me, it could not have picked a worse time. Yesterday morning my fiancé hopped onto a plane and jetted off to the sunnier climes of Palma. Okay, so he was going to work which means hard physical labour and long days, but at least he gets to do it in a tshirt. I had also treated myself to a week off work. With him being away, it would mean that the dogs would be stuck at home alone all day, so I have taken time off to keep them entertained. I had planned on dedicating the week to the garden, I needed to re-establish some beloved stinging nettles which had been destroyed by cats before the red admiral breeding season started again, and January’s wet weather has been causing havoc with the lavender. But it seems that the weather has other ideas.
This morning, I woke early, bundled the dogs into the car and headed out to a local field. It is a field that we visit fairly often; a space which has easy access from the car to the grass is something valued quite highly by Lexus, my collie x lab. He has mobility issues and cannot walk too far but loves to lie about on sand or grass at any given opportunity. We had last visited this particular field around a week ago, and I recall thinking to myself how much it felt like spring. There was nothing in particular that I could put my finger on, just that feeling that the world was on the change.
Today, my surroundings were completely different. My car temperature read 2.5 degrees, but outside the wind chill feels a lot colder. A smattering of snow had been falling for several hours, the flakes tiny and dry. Thankfully they were not settling. Yet. Whilst Lex lolloped awkwardly over to somewhere he could sit and investigate and Laika ran off to explore and chase her ball, I walked the perimeter, partly to warm up and partly to explore.
The last time we had been here the ground had been soft, puddles of sloppy mud left from when the rain felt as though it would never cease. I spent a lot of energy trying to redirect Laika, who often finds herself drawn to the muckiest of spots. Today, the ground is hard; tractor tyre marks solidified in the mud, the ridges make the walk uncomfortable. The tracks had been caused when a machine had circled the fields outskirts, cutting the top of the hedgerows. I felt saddened at the change; where only a week a go a large patch of galls had been threaded through an entanglement of branches, now just stood stark, spiky cut offs of branches, like rough stubble. Galls were littered on the floor. I moved many of them back into the hedgerow, hoping that being on the floor wouldn’t scupper the wasps inside chances of survival. These hedgerows are usually full of birds too, Stonechats, tree sparrows, chaffinches; many different species come here, hopping around between the branches, enjoying the cover and spoils the hedgerows have to offer, from blackberry fruits in autumn, to seed heads in the winter. Now, the birds had been forced to move on, their lifeline cut off and removed. I understand there must be a reason for this, but I have never seen these fields used for livestock or for crops in the years I have been visiting them to walk.
One mercy if that the grass has not yet been cut. Not only are there signs of rabbits enjoying the area, but around here the long grass usually hides a special bird. Sometimes, when I am here in the winter and the sun has already set, if I shine my torch around the fields I will catch a glint of sets of eyes, glinting in the light, staring directly back at me. After a few seconds, the animal will launch itself into the air with a flurry of sound. Snipes are quite common around here, the long grassed fields above Loe Bar providing the perfect habitat for them. In the summer, they are a delight to observe. The males launching themselves in to air, reaching dizzying heights, making loud drumming sounds as the air passes through the feathers in their tails, hoping to attract a mate. For now, they lie low, disturbed only when my crazy dog gets a little too close to their hiding places. WE don’t stay too long, the freezing temperatures managing to get through my 7 layers. Instead, I decide that today we will have to focus on entertainment at home, intermingled with short bursts of exercise throughout the day, instead of our usual long trips outside the house. I worry about Laika as the has a very short coat but isn’t very bright, so is unlikely to tell me when the cold has set in. On the drive back, the snow flurry increases and I can see it settling on the dormers of houses. The sun is due to make an appearance tomorrow before the snow really sets in on Wednesday and I plan for us to make the most of it whilst we can. Spring? You lied to me.