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The Great Thaw, February 2021

There are views here that make your breath catch in your throat. Even when you have looked that way a hundred thousand times, a change in the weather or the forces of nature can make it a surprise.

This is a picture that was taken the morning after the Beast from the East released Pateley from its grip. Frozen ground had been the norm for days. So much so that the yard went white, the massive puddles in the field were a thick sheet of solid ice that sang when the children threw sticks at them. Our morning routine was to defrost the chicken feeders and watch the hens gratefully take a drink before rushing back into their hut. The snow that had arrived the week before blew away slowly so that a walk was a series of icy gusts.

This morning, though, the cold lifted. The valley was full of thick mist that looked like morning in a rain-forest but was actually just a product of the melting soil. The trees were invisible from the waist down, more like an impressionist water colour than the living view of the valley. The air smelled different too - green, like a memory of summer. Going out that morning we felt the unfamiliar sensation of our muscles unwinding in the mild weather.



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