A perfect start to a day in Sidmouth

Early morning delights for James Chubb

A breath-taking morning (James Chubb column)

DRIVING to work early last Sunday morning, my breath was taken from me by the impact of the vibrant sunrise.

I was on my way to the first ever Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary orchard planting event and all the signs were there that it was going to be a perfect morning!

The powder blue sky was flecked with burnished gold and fiery orange, while the coal-like silhouettes of rooks and gulls sculled their way upstream along each of the three river valleys I cross each day.

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As I climbed Trow Hill a pair of buzzards wheeled and stooped on each other in a mock fight and, pulling into the car park, I heard the guttural croak of a raven descended from overhead. What a morning to be up and about!

I didn’t use to be much of a morning’s person. However, my two-year-old daughter has recently taken it upon herself to introduce me to 5am starts and to be honest I am getting to like my earlier operations.

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A quick walk around the orchard at 8am sent half a dozen pheasant fluttering and spluttering up out of the dew-sodden grass and while I was assessing the site before the arrival of my tree-planting volunteers, I noticed a profusion of signs of spring in the hedgerows.

We have certainly enjoyed a very mild winter this year, in stark contrast to 20010 and 2009, and already hazel catkins are bursting, blackthorn is blossoming and snowdrops are pushing their way up alongside crocuses and daffodils in the gardens around here.

I am keeping a close eye on all open water, looking out for the first spawning of frogs and toads, and will transfer this information to the Woodland Trust website, where they are keeping records of seasonal occurrences in the countryside.

To record, go to VisitWoods.org.uk and you can also see what other records have been broken here too.

At a time when climate variation grabs the headlines and attention, this citizen science project could prove very valuable in mapping seasonal change through the UK.

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