The snow dampens sound. Everywhere is unnaturally quiet: all the animals are silent, concentrating with grim determination just to stay alive.

The only cars that can move are 4x4s, which, after being pilloried in the press for several years, are now the only means of keeping some communities in contact with the rest of the world. Nobody is criticising them this week. The little wren that shared the pile of firewood with me lies dead on a log-as many as 50% of all British wrens may perish in this cold spell.

The availabilty of food and, increasingly, water is now paramount to survival, as birds become desperate for sustenance. All of us can help, by putting out food, breaking water, hanging up the remains of the Christmas ham bone, but, for many birds, it will not be enough.

We have been able to collect the milk and make cheese each day, but, for many dairy farmers, they have had the nightmare of getting up at 4.30am to milk the cows in freezing weather and then having to dump the entire collection as the milk tankers have been unable to get to the farm. It is a tough, white world in the British countryside, and it looks likely to stay that way for some time.

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