At Quadring Eaudyke the drains run, easing the water from the earth. Watergate and Rushy Drove sing their names of fen and farm to the listening land. Lincs Pumps and Pipelines are in business. Now muddy, mid-March Lincolnshire leans to the spring as tractors tread the acres, their mighty ploughs furling multi-shared furrows, bright with gleaming soil and screaming gulls following to feed, heads black with breeding splendour. Close to the dyke, a fancy pheasant fluffs a whirr of wings and ruffles up a creck-creck call to hens, subsides and pecks again.
Everywhere, home-made ‘Mud on road’ signs celebrate the gloriously spreading feast of mire, while ‘Leeks for sale’ promote the remaining winter crop, with a field half-plucked and batteries of trimmed, pale white and green vegetable bounty on boxes on the verge. The cabbages are past their best: sheep graze the leftovers of leaves and stalks or browse the dedicated crops of roots.
And now, against horizons of leaning spires of churches, metal frames of pylons and grey skies that don’t just threaten but pelt with slanting rain or driven snow, so fickle is the season, roll in the rippling tides of plastic sheeting spread on soil and seed to speed new growth.
And further south, where Surfleet Seas End and Moulton Seas End mark where once the real tides washed ashore, down towards Peppermint Junction, vast swathes of Taylors Bulbs are already deep green and undulate in windy waves; glass houses feed the nation’s supermarkets and those abroad with tonnes of early daffs, with millions of blooms to follow from the open fields. It might be Holland, and is named so, the land reclaimed and drained by dykes twenty feet wide and plenty deep. Here the banks of smaller dykes, protected from cold North Sea winds, have daffodils and periwinkles full in flower, with snowdrops hanging on in drifts of white. Above them, weeping willows are bright yellow with swelling buds and pussy willow catkins grey with fur.
It is spring in the Fens, though the harshest of winter weather still beats in from the east, and the casual passing eye might miss the signs that tell people here that the dark season is done.