Denmark, end of December. The constant sound of the sea, the smell of wood smoke and salt. The air is almost kippered. It’s the wettest winter since their records began. Flowering daisies in the long grass, dead leaves lie like damp leather. Confused new shoots everywhere.
The moles have been busy tunnelling under the mossy ‘lawn’. I shovel up 20 hills, barrow the sandy soil to the edges of the plot. The raked-up leaf will lie there, too. I will sow it with wild flower seed in early summer to join the wood anemone, hepatica, forget-me-not and campion that thrive in the more shadowy spaces.
I have a yen to see the nodding violets that nestle under the trees. We usually deck one of the red pines with lights for the Christmas week. Last year we needed a ladder, this time the top growth is so fast we decide it feels like an indignity.
We gather up broken branches, pile them in the corners. We fill the feeders with sunflower seed and spread bagfuls around in the bushes for the less pushy birds to share. We are soon joined by multiple types of tits, even redpolls, though they are not supposed to be this far south.
The finches take over the feeders, large groups of goldfinch, bullfinch, impressive looking hawfinch and greenfinch with their fiercer beaks. The nuthatches eat upside down, everyone leaves when the great spotted woodpecker arrives.
The bullying blackbirds make a fuss of turning over every unraked leaf. I spend hours watching with books and binoculars. A red squirrel swings through the hedging flashing an astonishing white belly as it loops through sagging twigs.
I prune back the rugosa and the apple trees. Mostly I sit and watch and walk in wonder that we get to share this wondrous space.
Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com