Country diary: slim pickings for a goldcrest in winter


Crook, Co Durham: The bird pulled morsels from mossy crevices, but all I could find were tiny pupa of a micromoth

On such a dazzling winter’s day in any other year, I might have gone over the hills and far away. Westwards, over the Pennines to Cumbria’s Eden valley; north to Tynedale; south through the Yorkshire Dales; eastwards, to the sea cliffs. But this afternoon, once again, my four-mile local lockdown route from my doorstep took me around familiar plantations, pastures and arable fields. In the past year, I’ve walked it a hundred times, in all weathers, through the cycle of the seasons.

Getting to know my home patch with such intimacy has been a source of comforting memories in troubled times: descending cadences of willow warbler song last April; a thrilling summer encounter with a hobby snatching a swallow in mid-air; the vinegary, sweet-and-sour aroma of ditches filled with fermenting crab apples on autumn afternoons.

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