I knew today would be special.
- 5.45 am and there's a songbird outside the window giving Dame Nellie Melba competition.
- It doesn't annoy me.
- There's a bold yellow sun on the BBC's weather page for Lindley...not one of those half-hearted, bet-hedging suns wrapped around a cloud...no, a beautifully round, unapologetic, go-getting one.
The return of Gardener's World has primed me with a renewed conviction-cum-delusion that anything is horticulturally possible. Monty Don, tells me that he has enjoyed a good winter - so much so that he's pruned all of his hedges; and this week I'm mesmerised as he turns to lopping his apple trees. He looks quite tall, so I'm sure he has a significant height advantage; but the way his secateurs snap crisply through the branches is almost mystical to me with my patented chew-prune technique.
So it's decided that with all of these positive omens it would be a mistake not to spend the afternoon in the garden.
Of course, in past lives, Briarcourt has been serviced by professional gardeners. I spot in my history research that at the time of the 1911 census, John Phillips, his son Robert, and one Josiah Blackburn both tended the gardens and shared lodgings in one of the houses that Herbert Sykes had built for his domestic staff. What's more in 1913, a gardener's entrance was created on the east side of the building.
However, that was another time and for now it's down to Dunc and I to renovate and maintain the garden as well as the house. So far we've armed ourselves with spades and braved a few raw and windy days to begin to uncover some of the pathways. It's satisfying to see the impact of this type of work but it's a heavy, dogged task.
With the promise of spring in the air, I opt instead for a more optimistic mix of cutting back shrubs and brambles, and starting a garden journal. At the moment our garden is the equivalent of a pantry full of tins with all the labels missing, so we'll need to keep tabs on what grows where by noticing when the plants come into flower, leaf or fruit.
The cats join me and indulge in sunny roly-polys.