Stepping into Narnia.

We are now entering the depths of winter; the animals strike up an orchestra of baas, neighs and quacks when they hear the Mule’s engine as we transport hay, hard feed and corn to the different fields. This week, breaking the ice on the water troughs is an important part of the routine as the cold snap sets in. There are many different types of cold and the one borne on a strong east wind is the least pleasant. But is the country ever so quiet as when there’s a hoar frost and a watery sun makes its low trajectory across the horizon? This version of sub-zero is formed in a similar way to dew, except the object on which the hoar frost forms is well below freezing. The silver birch trees really come into their own, their dense canopy creating a Narnia-like treasure trove of glittering crystals supported by ethereally pale trunks.

Beautiful, but also a signal that we are at the low point in natural food supplies for garden birds. Our feeder outside the kitchen window is a veritable Piccadilly Circus of nuthatches, blue tits and great tits, but the boldest one, which has the biggest body to fill, is the great spotted woodpecker, swinging like a member of Cirque du Soleil as he jabs voraciously at the peanuts.