Country diary 1920: signs of warmer life

Surrey
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.