On my way up the garden to the summer house this morning, I found three faces staring at me through the gate. Black-faced, apart from a white strip from forehead to chin – as if a painter had changed brush after the first stroke – they were an advance party from the treacle-coloured flock that arrived a couple of weeks ago.

Some time back, I wrote about the proliferation of brown and black sheep in these parts, and now they have reached us. Gone are the dumpy and far from lovely Texels, and in their place these beauties. Their heavy puffed up fleeces are bolstered by legs in black opaque tights, with white ankle socks. I can hear them grazing from half way down the garden, as they munch past the fence. In this respect they are not unlike robot mowers, working over a patch without fuss, making only a low mechanical drone.

Their lambs, a friend tells me, are so leggy they’re more like storks than sheep. She says they are a Dutch breed called Zwartbles, so the mystery over their origins is finally cleared up. Not just good-looking, they are friendlier than most other sheep I’ve encountered.

The Cheviots they share the field with keep their distance, but one afternoon I watched a curious Zwartbles follow close behind a neighbour as she made her way home along the field, without her even noticing.

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They return my greetings with a placid gaze, and occasionally take a step closer, rather than turn tail as if afraid, like the Texels, that the conversation might take an awkward turn. Speaking of which, some of them have white tips to their tails, which are kinked like foldaway walking sticks. Is there no end to their fascination?

This morning is the first day of the year when I’ve been able to work in the summer house. It is fabulous. No internet connection, no passing traffic, whether car or horse, no interruptions. If Tolstoy had been writing in these conditions, he’d have finished War & Peace in half the time.

If, that is, he hadn’t regularly paused to follow a butterfly’s path, as it flutters over the shaggy grass, or to liberate a wasp, trying to batter its way to freedom through the window pane. Given how swiftly these beasts can turn wood into pulp, it’d have been faster going through the wall. And then there’s the nest box on the garden shed which, for a second year, is occupied by blue tits.

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Until recently it was possible to watch them darting in and out of the hole with grubs in beak. Now that the hawthorn tree has come into leaf, hiding it from view, I don’t like to get too close in case I disturb them.

There has not yet been any tell-tale chirping of chicks, so either the mother is still sitting on the eggs, or the fledglings’ squawks cannot compete with the cacophony of birdsong all around.

Alternatively, maybe they’re simply treating it as a luxury retreat, rather like the Edinburgh New Town couple who, during lockdown, took it in turns to book into a hotel room each week, to give them a breather from the family.

The sound of an orchestra tuning up always sets my pulse racing, but it is as nothing to the volume the thrush makes from first thing in the morning to dusk. He has taken possession of two prime locations, the wild cherry tree and the silver birch, both of which have become a vertiginous vantage point.

Sometimes it’s hard to find him, but if you look for the topmost branch, that’s where he’ll be. Not to be outdone, the capo de capo of the blackbird mafia has seized control of the telegraph pole. Formerly the domain of the woodpecker, and riddled with holes, it is now his watchtower. From here he calls all day long, like a muezzin’s summons to prayer.

No-mow May is over now, but still our grass would gladden a naturalist’s heart. We returned yesterday from a three-day break, to find dandelions, daisies, buttercups and thistles waving as if glad to have us back.

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If you saw these plants in a magazine, in close-up shot, you’d place an order immediately. I wish I could claim our wild meadow is a deliberate work of art, but it is better than that: nature’s random seeding, which not even Picasso could improve on.

Early on a Sunday morning, as I write, is the best time of the day. Nothing mechanical has yet woken: no strimmers, shredders or quadbikes disturb the peace. From the beech hedge, which grows ever closer to the summer house, comes the ceaseless twittering of sparrows. I’ve just watched one burrowing its beak in the apple blossom.

When it comes to birds, I have what you might call low taste. Sparrows are among my favourites, unmatchable for company and character. They shoot across the garden, their wings as blurred as propellers. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were the inspiration for the first aeroplanes. Nothing seems to daunt them. Their plumage might be unshowy, but their personality is irrepressible, with something of the wide-boy or car showroom salesman about their engaging patter.

A neighbour’s daughter visited from London last week, and was startled to find daffodils still in bloom. That’s the upside of a cold climate. Well into June there are drifts of bluebells in the shade, either in our gardens, or the countryside nearby. Before they fade, word goes around of where the most scenic walks can be found.

Slowly I’m realising that a place like Hoolet operates by word of mouth. These days a village Facebook page speeds up the age-old process, whereby people offer unwanted items to a good home, or put in requests for something they lack. A few months ago an electric circular saw large enough to cut tree trunks was proffered, and snapped up within minutes.

But it’s not just big ticket items that fly around. The other afternoon a friend had just embarked on making a rhubarb crumble when her husband decided they needed twice as much again. Rather than head for the shops, she posted a plea for help. In no time at all, two gardeners stepped forward to solve the problem. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but who knew the same was true for pudding?

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