It’s raining again. Leaden clouds ink themselves across the sky in great swathes and all at once, mid-morning has erupted into an occidental monsoon. Plump droplets crash through leaves and catkins and wild poppies, forcing all but the most gargantuan slugs into hiding. In the downs of Hampshire these pockets of drizzle are not uncommon, and on an educational farm like this the rain always arrives when it’s least wanted. But the wet and warm temperatures of early summer have been like rocket fuel for the wildflowers that carpet the earth nearby; a cluster of ground ivy petals glow like lost amethysts in the clover.
In the corner rests a pyramid of sweet chestnut trees, sustainably chopped from a local woodland to be shaped into fence posts and firewood. On days like these I enjoy a ramble through the farm to greet the worms and ooze around in the mud for a while, and the log pile is always my first port of call. I arrive and stand rather tragically in the rain, gazing into the pile while Zeus throws all he has at my poor cagoule. A little time passes by. Perhaps there’ll be nothing today.
There! The copper-coloured face I’ve been searching for has popped out of a mossy crevice, before disappearing again into the warm darkness. This log pile is home to a small clan of stoats; two adults and four kits spend their mornings tumbling about, bored children on a rainy day. As soon as I see one leap to the ground like a dropped russet glove, she disappears from sight, leaving nothing but a little tail dipped in soot. Eventually they realise they have an observer and lie still, beady eyes peering quietly out of the darkness. I turn away and head back for coffee and a dry jumper.
The rain continues to pour. For today, these chestnut logs are a haven for small mammals, but I can’t help wondering how this arboreal empire governs itself, when I have seen adders, rabbits, toads and stoats all seeking solace in its dark corners together.