A little overnight snow brought the temperature up a touch yesterday and today there are signs of a slight thaw. The crackle and crunch as we pass has been replaced by a soft shoe shuffle. Evidence of overnight revels abound. One of the compost heap bunnies has dashed across the frozen pond top, pursued by two cats (so Pingu and Dobby, this is what you do after you jump off the bed…) More recent fox prints suggest another visitor has been silently following on. There is a welter of little dots and stripes crossing the path by the orchard – voles? Further on, down the lane, the Trasnagh bunnies have been dancing and prancing, twirling around passing pheasants and through the legs of deer passing over on its way to nibble the hedgehops. At the corner I spot the long toes and tail swipe of a rat.
The sun barely seems to rise now, hovering just above the hills even at noon. Our shadows dawdle behind us, etiolated giants. Low spikes of stubble cast mauve birch forests of shade. Lyra trots on ahead, the foxy tints of her father glowing warm against the snow. She seems to be radiating a warm halo. I shake my head and look again but the image persists. As she scampers in and out of the light through the zebra stripe shadows of the hedge tree she is accompanied by a curious aura as the ice crystals in the snow reflect back the tints of her fur, like a shadow of heat.
The most enormous hare breaks from the hedge bottom as we pass. At first I think it is a young deer. Lyra runs up and down looking for a way through but it is long gone by the time she reaches the gap. There is consolation in fox traces however, and she has a delightful roll. Mum and I care not a jot, the fox poop is frozen iron hard and she comes out of the squirmfest as clean as she went in.
To the north, somewhat counterintuitively, colour is returning. The game corridors are tawny manes again and a green flush is climbing the foothills of the Lammermuirs and flowing in runnels across the wheat fields. The south though, remains an opalescent blue white, the Cheviot a deflating pearly cloud. It is only just after one and a chill is setting in so we plod back to hog the Aga.