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

John Lewis-stempel

Country Life Every Week - - From The Fields - Il­lus­tra­tions by Philip Bannister

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.