The Beast, Emma and Thaw

Last week our little corner of the world, along with almost all of Britain and Ireland, froze as the ‘Beast from the East’ swept in. Temperatures plummeted to well below freezing and then snow fell. And then fell again, building up to a few inches, covering the landscape in its soft white blanket that delighted children (and many adults) but caused chaos and havoc on our roads and with school timetables. As the sun appeared it revealed a snowy landscape that always sends a shiver of delight through me. Whisking me back through the years to joyful days of childhood, shrieking with friends and family in the cold stuff. Having snowball fights and sledging down slopes, paths, school lanes… Now so many years later, and even my little one, whose words are just coming, yells delightfully ‘snooooo’ while pointing out the window.

The snowy scene at Thetford Castle Motte

Then with Storm Emma came bitter winds that blew the snow into drifts that in some places were 6 ft deep.

With the snow and icy winds birds piled into gardens searching for food and free water. Our feeders were busy with goldfinch, siskins, blue and great tits. Blackbirds, starkly black against the brilliant white, hopped through the snow, sweeping it aside with their bright orange bills, pecking at seed, fat balls and fruit laid out for them. Starlings too appear, squabbling with the blackbirds and doves over who gets what. Then a bird appears that has only ever graced our garden once before, and that too was when snow lay thick. It is a a fieldfare. This bird also takes its share, stocking up with food which beyond the fence is locked away in ice and snow.

Superb fieldfare

Then, as if from the mighty hand of the mystical god himself, ‘thaw’ arrives. One last deluge of snow is greeted in the morning by temperatures of 2 degrees. Positively balmy compared to the previous few days. There is on this last morning of snow time to play in the white stuff and then thaw takes hold. The snow turns wet and slushy. Rivets of water run down the road, droplets drip from trees and buildings, and slowly but ever so surely the snow disappears revealing the browns and greens hidden below.

And so just a few days later and while there are some occasional patches of dirty snow left behind hedges and in the odd ditch, the snow has left us and it feels immediately like spring is here. Everywhere birds are singing,; the haunting sound of a blackbird, the repetitive notes of a song thrush, the beauty of a robin, the tinkling of goldfinch, the wheeze of a greenfinch and the dunnock, which to me always sounds like someone whistling as they ride a bike down steps.

In the space of only a week the ‘Beast from the East’ had been defeated by the mighty Thaw and spring had definitely sprung.


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