The sunny, dry spring weather this year makes it feel more like mid-May than mid-April. Everything’s out early and the hedgerows are a picture. Quack Cottage’s cherry trees are heavenly and the valley is scented with blossom.
Lambs and ewes are grazing the meadows, the orchard pond is wriggling with tadpoles, and ducks are sitting on eggs.
Along the leat path through the woods, bluebells and white wild garlic mingle with the pale pink flowers of ladies smock and purslane – it’s sensory heaven with the stream tinkling, birdsong, and warm earth and crushed garlic underfoot, soft new leaves tickling your face as you stroll to the wooden bench by the fallen weirs.
Butterflies are in profusion over the gardens; we’ve seen orange tips, holly blues, small whites, tortoiseshells, red admirals and even the sulphurous yellow of a Brimstone.
The pair of dippers are often walking underwater upstream to feed. They nest between the old stone bridge and Crownwheel Cottage, near Mill Cottage, on the stream walls.
The bobbing long tails of the grey wagtails and their distinctive yellow feathers are fun to watch as they dip along the river and perch on the stones. Last year, they nested on the side of the bridge.
And the swallows are back and busy building a nest on Barleycorn Cottage, swooping and chattering as they catch flies amongst the lilac.
The kingfisher has been seen zooming along the stream, as the heron barely stirs. From the woods, the woodpecker calls and hammers.
Small brown trout are jumping in the stream, after the mayfly larvae, when the kids and dogs are not splashing in there with them.
Strange dens appear in the woods, and teepees on the lawn, piles of stones and fishing nets by the stream – is it fairies, or happy children playing?