Away from the farmstead nothing is visible but rows of elm trees with gaunt limbs stretched out as if to hold the mist, for above them it lightens to a thin veil that now and then catches a stray yellow glint from the sun. But here by the rickyard there are signs of warmer life. Ewes for lambing are being penned within hurdles; crisp wheat straw crinkles as the shepherd loosens the truss bonds and spreads it in a thick bed; the sheep bleat in an uncommon call that nature gives only at this time. Already lambs stagger helplessly, blinking at a new world; the practical shepherd takes them materially – so much more wool, so many for the market in a few weeks’ time.
Down by the water meadows lapwing are more numerous. Unseen in the ground haze, they were told by their frequent cry; and in the morning a dull note like the call of a snipe could be heard, distant at first, then near, as that of birds on the wing. A reed bunting, very tame, came with the shy hedge sparrows round the cornstacks – one of the birds that in winter feel company is good.