15th Jan. 2010. A late start, after sun-up, grey and misty. There’s wet in the air, and wet on the ground. In the village there is no snow or ice or frost even, all has thawed; only on the edges of the further fields and on the higher part of the farm track does some thin ice and snow remain. I turn north up Cuckoo Lane through Lamb’s Cross Farm and set the dogs a-barking. The herd is in the pen, stock-still and silent. The track is muddy now and pooled with snowmelt. I walk up to its highest point and run down the further slope. I find it harder going today, my legs are heavy, calves taut. So I walk awhile. Visibility is poor, the air is damp and there are few birds about. Beck Brook is swollen with the snowmelt, running deep and steady 15 feet across, but is so entrenched between deep sloping banks there is little chance of flooding. Up ahead, a jay, white rump flashing, threads through the hedgerow trees, the first I’ve seen on these morning runs, and I fancy I spot my old friend the green woodpecker flying low across a field with its tell-tale undulating flight. A pack of starlings whirrs off from the ground as I approach. I take a new route, branching off along a path which runs on top of the high, grassy, open bank of the brook and then leads me through the back end of Rampton village – an edge-world of carbreaker’s yards, bungalows, overgrown paddocks, tin shacks, scruffy nurseries, and caravans propped up on bricks. There is no-one about. Along a tarred road now then onto the grassy track of Rampton Drift. The going easier but my knees are aching. I struggle to keep up my 200 running / 100 walking paces. It begins to spit and drizzle. It’s a miserable day. But up ahead a great white bird takes off from a ditch and slowly flaps away and circles down beyond the hedgerow. It’s almost as big as a heron, but it is pure white as far as I can see. Not a heron, I’m sure of that. What then? It rises again as I approach and flies lazily away, so I cannot see its head. It has to be a Great White Egret or a Spoonbill, both rarities, though not unknown in these parts. It’s a nice surprise, a little gift of sorts. I turn south down the guided busway track, homewards, into a steady cold wind blowing from the snowfields of southern England, and it begins to rain. Pretty soon I am soaked through and cold, with still a way to go. On days like this, I wonder why…..