Scritch scratch-there’s something gently satisfying about using a spring rake on a lawn, which is just as well, as the soggy winter has turned most of mine into a mossy swade. As I raked, I noticed voles running hither and thither.

There are about 90 million of these little mammals in Britain and their numbers outnumber every other type of animal by a long way. They are subject to population explosions and I suspect we’ll see one this year thanks to the mild winter. They’re cousins of the lemming and their numbers peak on a four-year cycle. Strangely for the field vole, our most populous animal has been almost totally ignored in literature, but it’s the key prey for a large number of our better-known predators.

As these chubby faced little fellows dashed about, a lone swallow appeared, back from Africa- it was the first I’ve seen this year. In the woods, the bluebells have burst into flower next to the white wood anemones. This year, the oak has decisively beaten the ash into leaf, which, according to the old legend, promises a fine summer. There’s so much to look forward to, but little can beat a sunny spring day spent in the garden.

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