Birds sing at the tops of their voices as they begin their search for a mate, and hazel catkins appear
to adorn naked hedgerows bereft of foliage save for shiny, emeraldgreen ivy leaves that flash like diamonds in the weak sunshine.
The vivid-green leaves of the cherry plum emerge, ahead of its tiny white flowers, and arrow shaped cuckoo-pint leaves spear their way up through the dark earth.
As it’s February ‘fill dyke’ and you’ve probably worn out your wellies during the shooting season, invest in a smart new pair so they’re like old friends by the time you next unslip your gun. Try Dubarry’s signature Galway Country Boot (£299; www.dubarryboots.com)
Mussels, oysters, chicory, turbot, swede, cauliflower, celeriac and guinea fowl
To Ballymaloe House, an idyllic, familyrun country-house hotel in Co Cork with a world-famous restaurant (00 353 21 4652 531; www.ballymaloe.ie, rooms from €85 per person)
While you’re there, explore the hotel’s extensive grounds, which include a kitchen garden and a shell house.
1 measure each of vodka,
Kuyper Crème de Cacao,
De Kuyper Crème de
De Kuyper Crème de
Bananes, Disaronno Amaretto,
De Kuyper Crème de Cacao,
single cream and half a peeled banana with some crushed ice in a blender. Pour the blended mixture into a glass and garnish with a slice of banana and a sprig of mint.
Jobs in the garden
* Plant a hedge-bare-root whips should be plantedagainst a line, evenly spaced and firmed in
* Sow onions indoors-then label with name and date, cover with a pane of glass and a piece of newspaper for shade and put on a warm windowsill
* Prune Buddleja-slice and saw away, until the whole thing has been reduced to a roughly even structure of inch-thick branches, like a rather coarse pincushion KBH
February 2 Rugby 6 Nations begins (www.rbs6nations.com)
February 3 British Yorkshire Pudding Day
February 9-10 The British Shooting and Countryman Show, Warwickshire (www.shootingshow.
Every weekend in February
Colesbourne Snowdrop Weekend, Gloucestershire (www.colesbournegardens.org.uk)
February 27-May 19 ‘Barocci: Brilliance and Grace’, National Gallery (www.nationalgallery.org.uk)
Last chance to see
La bohème at The Royal Opera House (until March 12) (www.roh.org.uk)
Secure tickets for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone June 28-30
The Rye Scallops Festival, East Sussex, February 2-10 (www.ryebayscallops.co.uk).
Discover our native shellfish through demonstrations and art exhibitions
Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë