Yup this is it. It’s here. Two inches of snow, Heathrow flights cancelled, “stay in your homes” warnings from the police, two power cuts in the space of five hours – plus internet knocked out for nine hours.
First light today wasn’t very. The day dawned very slowly and mistily to reveal crunchy icy snow everywhere. The cats ventured out. Leo made his first foray on to the ice on the pond to stare longingly at the tasty orange things floating beneath. Watching him walk gingerly across the snow, you could tell he wasn’t fussy. He kept stopping, lifting a paw and shaking it.
Lily, on the other hand was much more game. First, though, I have to say that dogs are much more fun in the snow than cats. Rolls positively welcomed having a snowball lobbed straight at him and he loved a high one that he could leap up and gnash to bits in mid-air. He also liked getting his nose down low and snow-ploughing trails around the garden before rolling in a kind of snowy ecstasy and then wanting to come straight back into the house to drip-dry indoors. My other springer, Gemma, also loved the snow and used to career down the hill alongside the sledge but the boys never quite achieved their ambition of getting her to pull it back up for them.
I was expecting great things of Lily, being the retriever of the two cats. Throw one of her toy mice for her and she’ll dash to get it and bring it back so you can throw it again. She’s got much longer staying power at retrieving than the last two springers I’ve had.
So I fashioned a cat-sized snowball (cat-sized in small enough for a cat to carry, not the actual size of a ginger tom) and threw it to the back of the garden, she ran after it, got to it, sniffed it and looked at me as if to say “What? Are you mad?”
She rather liked the throwing and chasing but she definitely wasn’t going to do the fetching. It was a bit of a shame. What’s not to like about picking up and carrying ice crystals?
Anyway, the good thing about snow is that you can go tracking. It’s best to go early before the dog walkers but we’d missed our chance on that one, so we did a little light trespassing in fields and on little-used trails.
After snowfalls in previous years, I’ve scoured the area for badger tracks – and found the regular path they use from their sett in the wood through two fields down to the river to drink. Today it wasn’t hard to locate the tracks again – creatures of habit, they are still using precisely the same route.
There were bird tracks – don’t ask me – and deer tracks (probably fallow) and then, down by the river, on a snowy flat bit of bank that is usually mud, a trail of prints that emerged from the water, went along the flat and then up into the field and got lost in the broken snow on the grass. Otter!!
A friend told me she’d seen an otter one morning two summers ago and there’s been talk of otters repopulating this stretch of river but this was the first time I’d seen actual evidence.
Ok, it was cold today, it was misty and moody and tricky underfoot but wow, otter pawprints? Otterly worth it!