With deep, wet, hard snow blanketing his Herefordshire farm on a perishing January day, stumbles to the aid of a Welsh pig called June that’s been left out in the shivering cold and is succumbing to hypothermia
SNOW. Wet, hard snow, that came down on a northern sky, just after dawn. I tuck my face into my collar, put my shoulder as a prow into the blizzard and drag the sledge on. Snow. Hissing snow that blanks out sound, so there’s only steady shimmering of icy pellets hitting my coat and the endless shush of the sledge’s runners.
Looking around through the sightless swirl, I might be the last man on Earth. Pulling the children’s wooden sledge piled with three hay bales is not my favourite method of delivering fodder, but the steepness of the bank fields and the slickness of the snow mean that descending them in a tractor/quad bike/land Rover is a party invite to death.
Even so, the lazy man inside me was tempted by the mechanicals. However, a breakfast nip of Talisker in coffee failed to produce sufficient Dutch courage, so, here I am man-hauling a sledge in a manner Robert Falcon Scott would recognise. Snow. Sticky snow that forms plates under boots as they lift up. Snow makes everything old, including us, who stoop in its face. By now, the snow is blindingly dense. Whiteout.
Such is the gradient in Brook Field that the sledge starts to bump into my heels, so I let it go and it careers down the hill in a spume of icy crystals from the runners. I follow on, edging down sideways, trying to stamp steps with my feet. By luck, not judgement, the sledge has landed next to the hayrack at the bottom. A golfer hitting a hole in one would know this joy.
The five black tups in Brook Field have retreated to the lee of the hedge, to stand like disconsolate spectators at a lowerdivision football game. They’ve been gnawing to the grass through the snow and wear heavy, bling necklaces of ice diamonds. A single cock pheasant, circling the hayrack, saves me from loneliness and the field from white monotony.
With a Stanley knife, I slash the twin loops of yellow twine around a hay bale and the slabs of dried grass ping apart. If farming consisted only of this moment, it would be enough—i love the smell of hay on a winter morning, the tea-scent, with its memory