Country Mouse on summer signs

Summer’s harbingers have arrived. I spotted the first swallow 10 days ago, heard the cuckoo when fishing last week and, for me happiest of all, spotted one of our house martins zipping under the eaves as I was shaving this morning.

It seems everyone loves swallows and house martins, and people can become quite competitive over how many they have nesting around the houses and outbuildings. If the weather is dry, you can do them a service by creating a muddy patch to help them build their mud nests. Once, gamekeepers used to persecute the cuckoo, which looks remarkably like a hawk, but reports suggest that the numbers migrating to Britain are dwindling alarmingly for other reasons.

The view from our house is dominated by a large oak and ash tree. This year, the ash has come into leaf first; the old rhyme suggests that we may be in for a wet summer: ‘Oak before ash, we’re in for a splash; ash before oak, we’re in for a soak’. Whatever the future weather, May has always been Britain’s most beautiful month. Our wonderful gardens may peak in July, but nature’s greatest triumph is in May. It is well worth going to have a look.