We were snowbound in Devon this week; the first time we’ve ever been hemmed in by the snow. The weather clearly has a sense of irony as it decided to put us under house arrest on the first day the road to our nearest village was open after three weeks of being closed. The B3227 between us and Wiveliscombe was out of bounds while workers armed with chainsaws and machines which gobbled up trees as though they were candyfloss dealt with victims of ash dieback.
Opening the curtains to a Christmas card scene had us behaving like children, running from one window to another to beam at views of white fields and hills, an appropriately festive backdrop to the Christmas tree we put up a couple of days previously. After nearly two decades of living in warm climates, the sight of a snow-clad world remains a novelty for us. All last winter, there was only the barest dusting. This was the real McCoy.
We put plans to visit the village’s post office to offload Christmas presents destined for family around Britain on hold after A popped his head through the dining room window to inform us the lane leading to the main road was impassable. He attempted it in his 4X4 pickup and slid backwards before getting any distance. Driving down the lane toward the farm can feel like being in an airplane coming into land, attempting to drive up when it was covered in a blanket of snow and ice was a non-starter.
While A regaled us with his aborted attempt to take lambs to market, I spotted a movement at the pond (more mini lake) he created in the lower field during early autumn. It was two young roe bucks. Snow scenes are magical. Snow scenes with deer in them are off-the-scale enchanting. As well as adding to an already beguiling landscape, the appearance of the animals made a mockery of a statement I made barely two days earlier, that we had hardly spotted any deer in the year and a half we’ve lived here. We’ve seen the same herd, twice, in a field beside a stately home near Dulverton, but that doesn’t really count. In the wild, we’ve only seen two, and both jumped in front of the car. So, literally hard to avoid.
And yet, the day before the snow fell, we walked around Clatworthy Reservoir on a gorgeous, crisp, sunny morning when the world was an intense blend of blue, green, and copper colours, and were treated to four bucks over three different sightings. In one case, a brace of them allowed me to get close enough for a decent photo while they grazed beside the path before their nerves gave out and they bounced across the grass to disappear into the forest.
There are pheasants on the drive, a pair of fieldfares in the apple tree, a buzzard in the back field, robins on the gate, blue tits in the bramble hedge, and a small and as yet unidentified bird of prey patrolling the sky at the front of the house. Plus, the new pond/lake has its first resident, a duck of some sort.
A harsh winter is starting to bite, as the excess of berries on trees on Exmoor in autumn predicted, and yet the wildlife around us is so abundant I could be in a Brian Carter novel.
And in four weeks or so, we leave this rural splendour.
The house we’ve bought is only about twenty minutes along the road, and I’m excited about being in our own place again. Nevertheless, I will miss this special spot. As a base for a re-introduction to Britain, I can’t imagine we could have ended up anywhere better.