From the crooked elbow of Slippery Lane you can look back over the village and the valley. It’s a view that never palls in any season: the red and grey roofs, the chimneys and windows among their trees, and on across the flat country to far hills, Quantocks and a hint of Exmoor, pale blue with distance against the sky.
It’s a fight for life in the verges of Slippery Lane. The flowers have left the season of yellow, primroses and celandines, and they are slipping out of their blue attire too, bluebells and violets. Now crimsons and whites are all the rage, tall red campion shooting up two feet tall, racing for the light against the delicate white fretwork of cow parsley – gypsy lace, the schoolchildren used to call it, and maybe still do. Snakes of spineless bryony twine round anything they can find to support them in the hedges.
This Time of Covid is a curious mix of curse and blessing. The plug has been pulled out of the socket. No engine roar, no tyre swish from the valley road. No cars climb Slippery Lane, poisoning walkers with their diesel farting. Birdsong seems twice as loud, the woods seethe with insect hum. No con trails in the abnormally blue sky. And a tantalising spring of unbelievably sunny days in a long straight line.
Halfway up the hill we glance over a gate and are struck stock still by something we’ve never seen here before – three brown hares, great fat fellows, twitching their black-tipped ears in the lush unmown grass of Long Field. They face one another like cats, socially distancing, but only just.
A chiffchaff has been getting his declaration in order down in Valley Wood. Chiff-chiff! Chaff! Chiff-chaff-chaff! Chiff-chaff! Now he stows his gab, and there’s just the fat hum of a bee in the campion and a rustle of grasses in Long Field – Three Hares Field, it will be from now on – where the hares crouch and lollop, nibbling the stems and measuring each other up, indifferent to our little existence.