Country diary: The bird box and tree trunk are no longer separate things

Wenlock Edge, Shropshire: Like our fleeting winter, this box is merely an impression of what it once was, and what it should be

“For words are the birds of everything,” writes Ted Hughes (in Prometheus on His Crag), “So soon / Everything is on the wing and gone.” A derelict nest box rests on the trunk of a lime tree above the old railway line. The birds are gone; the leaves are gone; the spring and summer are gone; the rain, the snow, the sunshine are gone. It is the January of a new year, damp, cold and muddy.

In this season of passing, some are already searching for signs of spring and wishing winter gone when it’s only just arrived. The seasons of spring and autumn used to be transformative. They marked the dawn and sunset of life in the temperate world. Now winter is fleeting; often a non-season. This one began as the warmest ever. Too warm, too wet, too cold, too much – moaning about the weather is a cultural obligation, but winter will soon be gone. We are a people wishing ourselves over the edge.

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