Cycling through the Norfolk countryside, as I do on my way to work most days, is one of the delights of my life. One senses the ebb and flow of the seasons, the minute shifts in flora and fauna that unveil throughout the year. At the moment, the sound of chaffinch song is building to its spring crescendo, when it will be so ubiquitous and persistent as to be almost painful, but for the moment, it is a delightful fanfare for what is to come.
One also gets special moments and sights, and cycling past Hellington Church this morning was one such. A cold but bright morning, with a few flurries of very light snow across the fields. Flocks of rooks and gulls stood starkly out against the green cereal shoots, when from a ditch, not 10 yards away rose the spectral shape of a barn owl. Silently lifting to cruising altitude, a few feet above the road, it continued to fly just ahead of us before deviating to perch atop a small tree, peering back at us, the lycra-clad intruders. Although we are blessed with regular sightings of barn owls, the combination of setting, proximity and duration made us exultant.