Country diary: birds heard but not seen in this glowing glade

The glade filled with sunlight. It settled like physical stuff, a dusting of the inner circle and its enclosing trees with emerald snow. The green was made by sunlight on moss, on thorn branches, and across the flat ground with mossy stones and the first bristles of dog’s mercury pushing through. Outside the circle was a dark thicket of ash and hazel against an opal January sky. Much of the surrounding scrub had been downed by recent snow and gales. Last night a nameless storm came screaming as if the sky was being shoved through a letterbox. Today, shriven and clear, a new place was emerging from the wreckage.

The glade was glowing with light hovering just above the trees, preparing for something to appear. “Glade” may be too romantic a name for this place; it was just a clearing in a scratchy little wood that was, until the middle of the last century, a quarry for lime-burning and rum goings-on. Rock faces looming through trees were the same colour as the ash tree trunks and the ruins of a hill, broken, burned and carted away a century or more ago.

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