Silence is golden, or so they say, and here in Savages it’s certainly quiet today, but things are never truly silent. The clock is ticking ponderously and the fire crackles and pops. Occasionally Mungo sighs and then I’m back chewing over my thoughts and sipping my tea, lost absent-mindedly in my own head.
Mungo stirs and reminds me that he needs a walk by trotting over and resting his head on my knee.
Outside the frost has disappeared, the cold -6ºC mornings of late replaced by fog and about 10ºC temperatures. There isn’t a breath of wind and the fog moves imperceptibly under its own steam. With a hazy Gaussian blur capping the world off at the top of the wooded ridge of the palace the only sounds that exist today are those from the little patch of the world I can see. There is no road noise. No vehicles, no sirens. No planes from Old Sarum airfield. No twelve bore salutes from the shoot.
The only sounds as I stand at the gate are from birds, and when all other sounds are removed from the equation it’s surprising just how much noise the feathered world can make.
At dawn the chorus is quite alarming until you get used to it, when we first moved here it was impossible to sleep through, now it tends to wake me when it starts and then I drift off happily to the sounds of life in the trees beyond the dew pond. Even now, at 10am the breadth of noises being produced in this small corner of wooded farmland takes my breath away and I stand listening for some time, just taking it in and trying to pick out the ones I know.
There’s the bloody raucous pheasants of course, we live in the middle of a large shooting estate and pheasants are everywhere, driving anywhere from the house is a cautious affair as the stupid things have a habit of crossing an entire field for the opportunity to leap in front of a vehicle.
Beyond the pheasants there’s the musical blackbirds and the lively twitter of wagtails. Something somewhere has earned the wrath of the tits, who are scolding the culprit with a firm chi-chi-chi. I can hear the Tchack-Tchack-Tchack of a magpie, the deep throated kaawing of rooks in the branches and the lonesome sorrowful cry of a buzzard.
Beyond that there’s a blanket of noises that I can’t pick out. I’ll admit that I’m not great at my bird ID but thankfully I still have a copy of ‘A field guide to the birds of Britain and Europe’ that was given to me by my sisters in 1979. It’s seeing increased use since moving out here.
Mungo is getting bored of me listening to birds so we walk off up the track and as the farm buildings emerge I can hear the echoes of Radio 4 rattling off the corrugated iron buildings, it may be Sunday but farmers never truly get a day off and Richard is in the barn doing whatever it is that farm managers need to do on a Sunday morning. His pickup is parked in the door and the radio is keeping him company while he works.
A kestrel sits on the power line and silently watches us pass.
Turning the corner up the hill towards Fussels a flock of fieldfares chatteringly takes to the air in alarm as we get close and beyond them, somewhere in the lifting fog I can hear my first woodpeckers of the year.
The blackthorn hedges glisten with dew drops, shimmering like natures own christmas lights.
Turns out you don’t need quiet to find peace.