Water from the last few weeks of rain still flows down the hollow of the green lane, but the edges are crisp with frost. As I reach the sycamore grove, I wonder how the tiny goldcrests I have been watching there are faring this morning. They need to eat or die, and there won’t be many insects here today. I hope they are finding some in the thick bramble hedges. There are goldfinches dancing and chatting in the big hawthorn. A wood pigeon sits stolidly on a branch. Out on the top field, frozen grass and leaves crackle under my boots. The gulls and magpies are nowhere to be seen – a couple of crows, that’s all. No dog walkers about. When I reach the place at the edge of the woods, I stop and lean on a trunk. Silence is here. Ivy leaves barely shift in a breath of breeze. A blackbird briefly crosses my view in the woods below. A great tit lands in the top branches of the ash tree – hops around briefly – then leaves. The only sound is the distant, muffled roar from the Exe Bridges roundabout down in the valley bottom. This is as quiet as I have ever know this place – the icy sleep of winter.