Wild Cats and Catkins


Saturday began with darkness and the howl of wind and rain. A power cut. We decamped to relatives in Portesham where, a mile from the coast, salt spray had frosted the windows. A pheasant and pigeon were battling over food in the garden and, despite the weather (or perhaps because of it) a great tit was investigating a bird box on the garage wall.

It didn’t get light all day. Snowdrops glowed like fibre-optics in the darkness of afternoon. As we drove home at dusk, an animal crossed in front of the car. At first we thought it was a fox, but the silhouette was wrong – and this creature seemed to float rather than run. It looked like a large wild cat. I have seen these a couple of times before in West Dorset.  I once saw one through my kitchen window. It was crouching in the long grass, feral and wary. We stared at each other for a long split second in mutual shock before it shape-shifted back into the undergrowth and vanished.

We drove on, headlights shimmering on the wet roads. Suddenly we saw a flare like a firework arcing through the darkness towards the ground. It was phosphorescently bright with a tail trailing behind. We concluded it must have been a meteorite – a brilliant end to a day of darkness.

Sunday however was a day of light – golden, green and blue. The sun reflected off floodwater, the silver bark of birches and the intense greens of ivy and grass. Golden catkins and daffodils shone out from the muddy banks. Little Egrets, like white paper cut-outs, dipped beside the river Frome. Low light gilded the Mallards’ green heads. Along the lane, white chalk cascaded from a badger’s sett. Drifts of snowdrops had covered the dismal roadside and, I noticed, among the bare branches of the hedgerow, the tiny exquisite white blossom of the Wild Cherry. In the distance, the hills seem to reflect light back to the sky, perhaps from the sheer white chalk which lies like a sheet just beneath the grass.

The storms had swept winter from the countryside leaving piles of dead leaves, branches, twigs and mud on the edges of everything. Now sunlight was filling the gaps.

Little egret at LodmoorIMG_5199IMG_5160IMG_5179

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