If I were allowed to go for only one walk a year in the countryside, I would go now. I would be up before dawn and make my way to the deciduous woods and begin the day with the dawn chorus. If I’m lucky, deep in the thicket, a nightingale will be singing, too. As the sun creeps over the downs, the first swallows flash across the sky and a skylark sings a solo, high above the cornfields. The countryside looks like a salad bowl, the leaves of the oaks and especially the beech shining in the sun.

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I lie under a lime tree and listen to the buzz of the bees feeding on the nectar. A cuckoo calls. Pigeons flap into thick ivy with thin sticks for their nests. Cow parsley coats the verges in showers of white, studded with mauve milkwort and buttery cowslips, all beneath the pink-tipped blossom of the hawthorn. Sheep dot the green hills, the lambs chasing each other in gangs. Later, I return to the woods, where the sun has now warmed the pungent scent of the impossibly green wild garlic; further on, a violet carpet of bluebells stuns the eyes and fills the air with perfume. Finally, the sun begins to sink with a sob on a perfect day.

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