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Spring is coming

Snowdrop Valley in Exmoor, Somerset. Snowdrop Valley in Exmoor, Somerset. Shutterstock

Snowdrops. Like all seasonal flowers, I had forgotten them. Occasionally I remembered them, but I had mainly forgotten them.

The winter wasn’t too bad but it was pretty hard. Our horses live out and they have grazed down all the fields. Winter persists, and they are now living in their big thick rugs complete with neck warmers. Maybe you’ve noticed horses wearing fancy rugs, but most recently my pony Patrick has his heavy duty, boring, older Houdini-style rug on, with so many buckles and clips to help block out the cold. Dressing him up is as complicated as dressing a Georgian lady!

Patrick enjoying breakfast

Winter consists of frozen water troughs that repeatedly need breaking. It could get colder, wetter, windier. But we still wrap up and see the horses at least twice a day. What a great way to get fresh air! A pain, but you feel glad when out there looking after hungry, dependent animals. We feed them hay – half a bale each morning and evening. We source good hay at good prices from local people, from farmlands and smallholdings around the village.

frozen troughHay is a precious resource, arguably one of the most important resources to man; it keeps livestock going. We bought 200 bales in the summer but needed more to see us through the rest of winter. It’s funny: as we prepare for winter, we have the same slogan as the House Stark in Game of Thrones – “Winter is coming”.

Because our horses live out, I am busy clearing up their poo at the weekends. Some of it goes to local gardens as it is sold in bags at the gate on the roadside. We have lots of local supply and demand relationships to maintain!

The beauty of winter

Winter turns the countryside bare and pretty, devoid of life. Leaves are still rotting on the ground, and grass struggles to survive. The growth is very little so the horses can only nibble at it, working hard to find succulent titbits. Winter is a test for survival. But winter is fun. There is nothing like a ride on a crisp, clear Saturday morning. A hack round the village is lovely when riding in the field is not an option (unless you want to create a mud bath). A gallop up a track is still viable when the frost is gone.

Patricks rug

Winter is unpredictable. Frost, rain, winds, snow, the cold. Then mild or sunny. Horse owners become die-hard meteorological enthusiasts in the winter. We all become major decision-makers: rug or no rug? Which rug? Same hay amount, or more? We become expert stock managers – “the feed! Oh my God, we are running out of pony nuts!”. Winter is an opportunity to exercise our talents and strengths. Winter will succumb to the spring… but not for a while. It has its icy fingers gripped hard.

These snowdrops I’d forgotten about are signs of a crack in the hard life. Beautiful plants that fill you with hope and joy. Kick the Stark’s slogan. Spring is coming!

All photos except title image taken by and copyright of Lizzie Bannister, who volunteers at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Branch of CPRE. Want to get involved with CPRE? Find out more in our Ways To Volunteer section.

Winter turns the countryside bare and pretty, devoid of life.

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Hay field harvest

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