Winter has arrived, the leaves have fallen, the river roars, all is quiet except for the mass of birds surging around the feeders. Until the first frosts everything is damp – the meadow wet and clinging to the feet. Suddenly there is a world beyond the trees – neighbouring houses and farms the other side of the streams are revealed.The skys are low and grey, days, hours, even minutes of sunshine are treasured – when morning and evening light brings fantastic hues. Snow when it finally comes is delightful, for a little while. We hope it lingers until the weekend when the ski hill may run and the children can sled and ski, and just maybe the cross country trails will be tracked in Almindingen. But usually there’s just enough to block our track for a little while, to build a snowman and to make the most spectacular thaw waters. Tree sparrows, woodpeckers, yellowhammers, blue and great tits fill the hedges and thickets, while ravens cronk over head.
Spring, oh how we long for you. As the weeks of March go by we check each inch of ground for sight of the first unfurling leaf or bud. It starts so slowly but by the middle of April it comes rushing. There are waves of white and yellow. First the celandines, then the anemone fill the floor of our woods (white, yellow and blue). The plum blossoms, then the apple, pear, cherry and finally the blackthorn and hawthorn – the scent (if we are spared the pig slurry spreading on nearby wheat fields!) is overwhelming. The cycle way between Stavehøl and the round church becomes a garden of delights – anemone, larkspur, orchids and finally wild garlic (ramsons) – before the canopy finally closes. The leaves finally unfurl and Stavehøl is once again hidden. Song thrushes are the first birds to welcome the return of life, then follows a cascade of migrants from southern Europe and Africa. Lesser whitethroats and blackcaps sing from every piece of scrub, yellowhammers, linnets and white wagtail love our thick hedge and roofs, while buzzards nest in a neighbouring pine. We celebrate the first swallows and martins, but for shame they don’t linger, and the skeins of geese and bugling cranes heading to the far north. Our meadows, if we’ve cut the long grass, are awash with gorgeous dandelions, buttercups and mayweed – then one warm evening we finally hear nightingale song erupting from the blackthorn scrub and know summer has come.