The perishing cold causes habits to change. For the first time in 10 years, we have seen bullfinches on the bird table. For days now, a wren has sat patiently on the woodpile waiting for me to fill the wood basket and, in the process, reveal the hiding place of spiders that it can snap up. With the chicken’s drinker the only source of unfrozen water in the neighbourhood, our house feels like Noah’s Ark as more and more birds and beasts come to drink, desperation conquering fear. We haven’t seen a winter as cold as this for many years and, for many animals, the weather will prove fatal.
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The snow hit north Hampshire particularly badly before Christmas. One memorable night, it took six hours for me to drive the seven miles from Basingstoke to home. It was an unforgettable experience: cars sliding everywhere, people pushing each other up hills and dozens of people leaving the comfort of their homes to provide the stranded drivers with tea and coffee and, in some cases, welcoming strangers into their homes for all-important loo stops. It was uplifting to see such kindness.
The bone-numbing cold does reveal the best of humankind.