Country diary: Cornwall enjoys a midwinter glow | Environment

Interludes and flashes of sunshine bring sparkle and colour to the drab midwinter landscape around home. Before streaks of orange brilliance mark the sunrise, a blackbird chortles and pitches into the remains of ripe fruits on the Kousa dogwood; blooms of the camellia Cornish Snow glow beside dark foliage and yellow spikes of fragrant mahonia; and another blackbird is prospecting myrtle berries.

Southwards, beyond the vacated pastures opposite, first light catches plumes of steam and smoke rising from the wood-chip boiler that warms glasshouses growing acres of alstroemeria (Peruvian lilies) to be picked throughout the year.

To the north, by breakfast time, a rainbow stretches from the old beech clump and across a skyline of fields to form a perfect arch above two crows, flying up from the sheep-trodden grass into a louring sky.

Overnight, wind has knocked twigs, chunks of rotten branches and tufts of lichen into the lane that leads downhill towards the Radland and Morden millstreams.

Down in those wooded valleys much land remains in shadow, but intermittent sunbeams filter through the trees to reflect on shiny leaves of harts tongue fern and ivy, illuminate moss on sides of tree trunks, pick out a spiral of gnats, and side-light a flock of sheep on the sunny side of the valley by New Houses.

Streams, swollen with run-off from the steep and muddy lanes, converge and race towards the pool and weir that serve Cotehele Mill. The quarter-mile leat that flows towards the restored water wheel and the shed that houses the electric generator appears as a sky-lit ribbon above the turbulent stream, both hemmed in by bare trees.

Past the mill, high tide slows the tributary’s flow, water backs up and is temporarily stilled; a gang of drakes float among the reed beds and, out in the main river, ruffled water dazzles in the morning sun.

For now the quay is relatively free of visitors, the gig club’s boats remain in the yard, and a pair of swans waddle and dabble at the top of the hard. Tomorrow there will be snow on the eastern horizon of Dartmoor.