Juniper yawned and turned to her sister.
“We’re old enough to go exploring,” she said, stretching her legs.
Rowan blinked sleepily. The sun was rising in the sky and she could hear the soft tinkling of the nearby waterfall. Suddenly wide awake, she joined Juniper who was, by then, staring at daffodils peeping their way through the slightly frosted ground.
“Yes,” Rowan agreed. “At last it’s Spring.”
Pavlova smiled. Her girls were growing up fast. They were intelligent and inquisitive, with beautiful coats of creamy, curled wool. It was a year ago that they had been born, here on the hillside. Members of the flock were starting to gather to wish them ‘Happy Birthday’.
Aunty Marmalade bustled along and greeted them all warmly. There was Uncle Broccoli marching up the hill. Garibaldi, Cornelius and Beanstalk appeared from different directions all at the same time. Aunt Marshmallow was a little slower, her elderly legs taking their time along the gentlest of tracks.
In a rush, several of Juniper and Rowan’s young cousins arrived in a noisy huddle, followed by the tiny figure of Button Mushroom trying to keep pace with them all. “Wait for me!” she bleated.
Born only a few weeks ago, Button Mushroom was already trying to keep pace with the older lambs. Her coat was a soft dappled grey and, as she was so very tiny, it had been easy to call her Button Mushroom.
When the cries of ‘Happy Birthday’ had finished echoing their way across the hilltops, Uncle Broccoli suggested they all take a stroll along the banks of the Reservoir.
“It’ll blow the cobwebs away,” he laughed.
The younger ones cheered heartily and started off at a bound. Grassholme was beginning to come to life again. Buds were forming on leafless trees. They wandered over the grassland and through small pockets of woodland. Aunty Marmalade led them to fresh patches of sweet vernal grass. How she found these treats they never knew, but they all munched ecstatically. Ducks squawked out at them as they neared the water’s edge; they’d had a quiet time all winter and were surprised at the approach of so many sheep. Button Mushroom stared intently at the tiny yellow ducklings propelling themselves hurriedly through the water behind their mothers: at last, here were some creatures smaller and newer than herself. Sunshine danced and rippled on the Reservoir’s surface but the wind blew across the water, making it bracing and chilly.
“Let’s hurry back,” they called.
They gave little Button Mushroom a head start and, with head down, she ran as fast as her legs would take her, hoping to be the first one home.
“I’d say both the birthday girls are ready to undertake some travels,” said Uncle Broccoli.
Their father agreed. Pavlova frowned because she did not want them to travel alone. Uncle Broccoli, however, was smiling with a far away look in his eyes.
“It’s a long time since I’ve been up to Hadrian’s Wall,” he said. “I would like to visit there again. I could take the girls with me. It would be a good idea to travel through the woodlands now before the trees get leafy and block out the sunlight.
Pavlova and Christopher thought it over for a moment.
“Excellent idea,” they both said. Broccoli would be the perfect guide.
Juniper and Rowan were thrilled to learn they would be setting off the next day.
“Please don’t go,” said little Button Mushroom, her eyes round and pleading.
“We’ll be back before you know it!” cried Juniper.
“And soon you will be big enough to come with us,” added Rowan.
Button Mushroom mulled this over and her eyes sparkled.
Early the next morning, the whole flock waved farewell to Broccoli, Rowan and Juniper as they disappeared over the hill and down toward the valley.