A year in the life of a brown hare [PICTURES]

Wildlife cameraman and photographer Martin Hayward Smith kept a diary of a revelatory 12 months in the company of Norfolk’s beguiling brown hares.

The first time I saw a hare was when I was a young lad out beating and, as I walked across a stubble field, this large mammal suddenly got up from under my feet. We were both startled as it sprinted in the opposite direction, but I’ve never forgotten that day.

I’ve always wanted to take time out for a year to observe my favourite species. It would come down to field-craft, knowledge of the land and luck, but I am fortunate to have access to many thousands of acres covering several private locations in north Norfolk, with its prime hare habitats, from Holkham and The Barshams to Burnham Market. I armed myself with a small rucksack containing my faithful camera and set out, using this diary to record my adventures.

It was a wild and erratic start to the year, but, as the seasons changed, so did I: an inner calmness and contentment came over me as I followed the path of the hare and life out on the open fields, under a huge and ever-changing Norfolk sky.

This is an abridged extract from ‘My Year With Hares’, £27.95, published by Martin Hayward Smith (01328 820660; www.martinhaywardsmith.com)