April 17th, 2010. 7.30 am. I step out into early morning sunshine in a pristine sky but within minutes I am walking through cloud. A wash of grey fog has mantled the land, quite suddenly, reducing visibility to about 200 yards. Trees and buildings lose definition, headlights flick on. The fog layer is several hundred feet thick, veiling the sun, which is now but a diffuse luminescence above the south-eastern quarter. In places the grass is heavily frosted. The cold slab of earth has chilled air into water, conjured cloud out of emptiness, made visible that which was invisible.
I walk the B-road to Lamb’s Cross, then north up Cuckoo Lane, the medieval track, to Rampton Drift, then west to the guided busway and south towards home. It’s been a week since I was last out, but the spring has been slow to advance. True, the hedgerows are denser, and some trees have now begun to leaf over, acquiring, from a distance, a fresh yellow-green fuzz, like lichen. Blackthorn is in full creamy-white froth, though leafless, while hawthorn is leafing bright green without blossom. In the gardens, plum and cherry trees are spectacular. The field rape has begun to flower yellow, here and there, above leaves drooping heavy with frost.
It is a quiet walk, with no incidents or encounters. The barking dog at Lamb’s Cross farm is nowhere to be seen, and even the jingle-jangle radio in the barn is silent. There are small birds along the way, greenfinches being the most noteworthy, but also chaffinches, blue tits, great tits, blackbirds, etc., though they are few in number. I flush a single pair of mallard from the brook, where I would expect half a dozen. The water is empty. I see no lapwing, barn owl, kestrel or buzzard on the wing. The fog slowly disperses but it is not till after nine that it lifts completely. I walk back in sunshine, through a soundscape composed by rooks and skylarks, with occasional contributions from far-off woodpeckers and pigeons.