The pile of recycled asphalt looked like an eyesore in the middle of the field. But many of the sheep who had just arrived for the grazing found the heap to be just perfect for sunbathing. As many of them as possible were laying on it, presumably enjoying the sun-warmed surface on their tummies as well as the sunshine on their backs.
A female pheasant crouched motionless on the verge, looking just like a pale, brown-streaked stone dropped into the grass.
A single fallow hind grazed in the declivity that was the farm dewpond, where the grass was rich with sediment, and only a little water lay in the far corner. She was secluded, out of sight from the field above, and only briefly visible from the lane as I passed.
A bee fly hovered outside the bedroom window, just above the thickly growing leaves of honeysuckle. Behind it, roses are on the verge of flowering.
Bella, the female blackbird in my back garden, is definitely nest building again, for the first time this year. The moss on my side path has been scratched up, and today I saw her digging gobbets of mud out from between the terrace bricks. She’s constantly busy, flying in and out with great purpose. Bertie, the male, is usually close behind her, following her movements.
A bullfinch flew low over my head on the common, her rosy chest glowing in the sunshine. Back in the garden, a holly blue butterfly was flitting around the berberis.
Bella came very close today as I was working in the garden, keen I should notice her and put out more mealworms. Robbie, the male robin, was also making sure he was in a prominent position.
The wood pigeons enjoy the sunshine on the tall cypresses at the bottom of my garden. One perches on a pinnacle, keeping a close watch on the scene. The other seems to lie peacefully soaking up the warmth.
Delicate filigreed green patterns have their season on the common. Dainty tassels dangle from the tips of branches and lime-green flower clusters spray out from emerging leaves like a burst of fireworks.
From a distance, many of the trees fringing the lanes of Hungerford common are still stark in their winter shapes, the developing buds not yet colouring them. But, in contrast, some have embraced spring wholeheartedly and an occasional vivid green lollipop of a tree has burst into leaf. Here and there a tree stands separately from its fellows, creating more of a statement, spreading its branches wider into the space around it, especially when it is an early developer. While the rookery copse is full of the starker variety, it is sentinelled at either side by a greening oak.
There was a vivid black and white swirl of movement, like a woman in a white dress flinging her black shawl around her shoulders. But this was a lapwing, the first I’ve seen this year, spinning round above the muted grey rows of lavender bushes in the Hampshire field.
Pale creamy yellow ribbons of cowslips stream through the grass of the road verges, a conspicuous contrast to the virulent yellow of the oilseed rape that fills many fields further on.
Now and again a covey of small birds bursts out of the hedge as I drive by. Usually there’s just a flash of pale belly as they turn sharply away and up. But a female chaffinch, pursued by an irate rival, flashed out at tremendous speed, white wing blazes vivid against the branches, and slammed straight into my car. Her rival survived, jinking sharply back and away.
Here and there a cowslip has opened its flowers on the common, the pale yellow surprisingly vivid against the grass.
Mid-morning, a deer stood silhouetted against the vivid green of the growing crop. Further on, a fox strolled along the rim of another field, before disappearing into a copse of trees.
The cows have been out on the common since Saturday, and were in a tight huddle around the water trough this morning. The cowman was right in the middle of the herd, resting against the trough, looking as though he was enjoying a quiet commune with the cows. In fact, he was checking the ear tags of the animals, who will soon be confident enough to spread out more widely across the surrounding acres.
A noisy host of starlings landed in a field, spreading across it in a dark miasma. They fed among the short shoots of wheat for a short time, then they lifted off in a great shouting cloud of action.
There is a strong scent of limes from the trees edging the dell on the common, submerging the more subtle perfume of the bluebells that cluster at the foot of the tree trunks.
Rooks were dark against the grass near the rookery. The birds were close together, stabbing their sharp beaks into the turf.
Jersey fields were lined with green rows of early potatoes and newly dug ones were being sold in neat small brown paper bags at farm gates. Two larger separate fields were crowded with lovely creamy brown Jersey cows with their big pale rimmed eyes. Only one field of spring bulbs remained, with fading white narcissus, their petals given a luminous life by the sun. Hedgerow flowers seem to be past their prime, although there are still banks of white three-corned leeks, some bluebells and bright streaks of pink campion.
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