Yesterday I noticed that it wasn’t windy or rainy for once. What a relief it is to see things drying out, even a little! The leak that began after Christmas seems to have stopped (my fingers are tightly crossed). Despite two professionals from the building trades coming to look at it, neither noticed nor pointed out that one of the tiles on the porch had slipped down a little – both were perhaps focused closely on their own line of work and source of income.
But the other week, I was staring up at the porch wondering how it could have sprung a leak so suddenly, when I noticed that the tiles in the top row under the flashing weren’t quite aligned, so I got up on a kitchen chair with Nora bounding around my feet with excitement, and tapped the tile back into position. Since then things have improved. I won’t say more than that as it hasn’t rained particularly heavily since then and it may be premature. But I’m hopeful that this will have fixed it. It makes sense: the porch was used as a support for one of the scaffolding poles during the chimney repairs last year and this may have loosened things.
This morning the clouds were gathering again as we walked up on the coast at Stolford. We walked along the sea defence, the Bristol Channel on one side and flood water on the other. A couple of fishermen crouched behind a bright red windbreak on the top, patiently tending their rods and lines, obviously made of stern stuff.
To get out of the wind’s buffeting, we headed down onto the beach and strolled along the shingle, noting an outflow pipe pouring into the sea. The concrete construction bears the initials S.D.B. – Somerset Drainage Board perhaps?
Sandy brown waves churned back and forth as the tide went out. The waterline showed it had been right up to the top of the defence but hadn’t overtopped it. Very little manmade detritus had made it onto the beach today, which was good, but I really needed my “leave it!” command when I was photographing this washed-up sheep’s carcass and Nora bounded up intent on examining it. I wonder how it came to be in the sea, poor thing.
And here’s a fairly unremarkable fossil, which I’m always pleased to find, although I leave them behind where they belong.
Postscript: if anyone is having trouble seeing the pictures, or enlargements of them, please let me know and I’ll see if I can report it. One reader reports not being able to open them. Thanks.
Posted in Animals, Walking | Tagged beach, coast, coastal, Dog, England, flooding, paleontology, rural, Somerset, UK, walking | 10 Comments »
Walking uphill slightly, we cross the lane, stepping across the stream of water that runs down its length almost all the time now. An undulation in the asphalt further up the road has made the run-off miss its destined drain, so it flows down along the road’s surface, much of it also by-passing the gulley outside the cottage where the tarmac has been scarred by the tread of lorry and tractor tyres.
Turning the numbers to align, I throw back the padlock in its sodden nylon sheath and heave back the lever to release the gate. We head into the field, to its highest point, to check if there is any livestock around. Nora goes running off to find some good smells, her ears blowing back in the breeze, while I trudge around the field’s edges. Instinctively anti-clockwise, never clockwise.
The meadow must be the size of our local park; yet it feels much smaller. A single young tree has been planted in the centre, protected by sturdy, stock-proof fencing. By the gate, there is an old barn that has been partly converted into stables and then abandoned. I heard the money ran out but I know to expect its conversion into a holiday let. A laminated planning notice, torn loose from its moorings, lies almost lost in the hedge.
The stable doors hang loose on their hinges, blown to and fro by the wind. The half-roman roof tiles – traditional around here – have slid away from their moorings here and there, and the new concrete floor is stained and patchy. A bath sits upended on a pile of discarded timbers. It is all wet. So wet.
As I continue to walk the margins, heading uphill now, a mist rolls in, obliterating Cothelstone and Lydeard Hills, and my focus is drawn to the ground. The field has lost its place in the landscape. Maybe this is why it feels so small today.
The ground is saturated even here in the uplands. Hoof-prints hold little pools of soil-reddened water. The grass, still green last week, is yellowing, not exactly flooded but oozing water around its longer tussocks, anything at ground level slowly asphyxiating. The remains of one of last summer’s corncobs, blown in from the field over the lane at harvest time, lies among the decaying cowpats. The grain has been eaten but the cob is here to rot. It is hard to imagine that this meadow was full of rabbits and yellow buttercups only last May.
Posted in Country life, Walking | Tagged flooding, floods, rain, south west england, storms, UK, weather | 2 Comments »
With another Atlantic storm forecast tonight and tomorrow but with blue skies momentarily offering themselves, Nora and I make the most of a short lull in the last few weeks’ stormy weather. This apparently endless wet weather is hard to bear, both physically and mentally.
Up on the heath, the soft, wet ground yields easily underfoot; the bridleways are stippled with the hoof-prints of shod horses – clear impressions of nailed-on shoes and, unusually sometimes, their frogs – and by the flatter signatures of the resident herd of small, unshod Exmoor ponies.
The grass, just beginning to spring back into life on paths worn bare last summer, now bows itself to walkers and riders treading hard into the spongy moss around trails already bathed in mud.
Driven by south-westerly winds, the day’s fine weather begins to abandon us and make its way towards the Bristol Channel and the north east.
And the bad weather heads in from the west over Exmoor.
Bundled-up walkers march briskly, keeping their dogs close, snatching this brief opportunity, mindful of not getting caught in a sudden squall.
Back in the warmth of home, the dehumidifier hums and daylight fades greyly as we await the incoming gales.
Posted in Country life, Walking | Tagged south west england, storms, walking, weather, west country | 5 Comments »
The barometer is responding to my frequent tapping by pointing firmly to Stormy this morning (although this picture, taken yesterday, doesn’t show it) and, by the way, isn’t the typography on it really annoying? I clearly didn’t have my ‘design head’ on when I bought it but then, it was a car boot sale bargain, albeit twee and with
FAR too many typefaces.
Yesterday, I had the bright idea of asking my neighbour Sue, if I could walk Nora in the field opposite the cottage. With the rain barely stopping for more than a few minutes at a time, it didn’t feel worth going far but somehow a run in the garden didn’t seem to warrant leaving the cosy warmth of the fireside where, for a while at least, I had built a fire that didn’t smoke us out.
After days of being followed around by grey skies and persistent drizzle, it finally dawned frosty, windy and bright here today. So Nora and I went over the road again and she had a lovely undisturbed run in what must be about two acres of grass, rabbit holes, puddles and bovine hoofprints. An absolute luxury for us with our town mentality of walks involving frequent interactions with people and other dogs.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy meeting others. Sometimes those brief conversations about the mud or the dogs’ behaviour are what get me through the day. But the endless vigilance required to prevent what the vet calls Nora’s ‘dietary indiscretions’ and what I call ‘eating any old crap that she finds on the pavement’ or worrying that her boisterousness will terrify passing Somali children going home from school can be rather wearing. Sometimes, it’s lovely just to walk in peace and enjoy the view, taking pictures without my arm being yanked by Nora at the end of the lead or finding that my momentary inattention has led to her lying neck deep in mud, having wrestled someone’s tiny, white and raincoated dog into the mire along with her.
I think I must be getting my mojo back. I feel distinctly chipper, despite drips and leaks and a million things to fix here. Today I can only sense a cheering black dog. Hooray!
Posted in Animals, Country life, Personal, Walking | Tagged dog walking, town v country, weather | 8 Comments »
This is Seven Sisters on the top of Cothelstone Hill in the Quantocks. I can see it from my bedroom window and when I’m up there I can see the cottage in the distance, poking its roof up over the hills.
The view from Cothelstone is wonderful; a full 360 degrees, on a good day, of fabulous countryside in all directions, with sights ranging from Minehead and Exmoor to the Bristol Channel and Wales on the other side.
Seven Sisters itself is a very useful local landmark by which to orientate yourself as you move around the Quantock area. You can see it from so many places and it makes it very easy to tell in which direction home lies. Comforting even in these days of GPS.
Only three of the original seven ‘sisters’ remain – they’re the big trees on the right of the picture. Exceedingly tall for this exposed location, they are very old and bend distinctively away from the prevailing wind. They will eventually die or be uprooted in a gale as is the way of things. The plan was that when they did, the smaller beech tree circle would be left to replace them… only now that won’t happen. For the mound of earth on which they are growing is special. It’s called a ‘pillow mound’. That means it’s thought to be an ancient rabbit warren (presumably from medieval times when large rabbit warrens were cultivated as a source of food).
English Heritage have decided that this unremarkable low, grass-covered rise is more important than the newer group of trees, planted some 40 years ago to augment the older tree circle. They will therefore be removed over four years to protect the mound on which they’re planted.
How the newer circle of trees is to be taken out without damaging the precious ground hasn’t been explained, but I noticed this morning that one of them has already been cut down. Presumably once the stump and root system have rotted sufficiently, they will be pulled out carefully. Then, eventually, there will another blank grassy mound with a wooden fence around it, as there already is a little further along on the hill, and that will be ‘history’.
New trees will be planted slightly somewhere else and it will be many, many years before there’s another Seven Sisters up on the hill big enough for people to remark upon from a distance.
I can’t help thinking that a living monument is being sacrificed for one that has been long gone. Let’s just hope that the original trees survive long enough for the latest circle of trees to establish itself, or else this familiar landmark will vanish for more than one generation. By then, those of us who love this place will also be history and its memory lost forever.
Postscript: An informed view – http://www.quantockhills.com/blog/view/conservation_conversations/
Posted in Country life, Personal | Tagged ancient monuments, English Heritage, History, landscape, Somerset, trees, UK | Leave a Comment »
Just thought I’d try a bit of positivity today. I’ve dashed around for much of the day cleaning and basically making myself feel more in charge of what’s happening to the cottage. The rain has stopped and, while the water is still seeping through a bit across the whole of the south-west wall, it is starting to dry out.
Having improved my mood a bit, if not my now chapped hands, I took Nora for a walk. Intending to drive to the shops first, I had to turn back as the road to Bishop’s Lydeard was flooded. Even in a 4×4 I decided not to risk it as it looked quite deep. I’ve had enough disasters of late.
Here are some shots of my almost completely private walk with Nora – only once we had reached the top of Cothelstone Hill did we meet some people and their dogs. Lovely!
On the way home we met toothless Graham from the farm on the road. He said we’d had 30mm of rain last night, which would explain a few things.
Posted in Animals, Country life, Walking | Tagged rain, Somerset, walking, water damage, weather, winter | 6 Comments »
Blogposts aren’t supposed to be negative but I’m finding it terribly hard to find positive things to write about these days. So I’m not sharing this post as widely as I would normally: it’s not going on Facebook or Twitter. I’m just putting it up as a diary entry, which is how the whole blog began as ‘back in the day’ as my children would say.
The joy seems to have gone out of the place or is it just the winter with its endless rain and puddles, and leaks and wind?
I struggle down here with all the stuff that I’m constantly carting backwards and forwards: the animals and their bits and pieces and the various things that I need while I’m here (which is actually very little but it all adds up). And when I get here, the first thing I find is that the south-west wall is again leaking water across its whole width after a couple of fairly extreme downpours today.
My heart sinks. I get out cloths and bowls and try to soak up what I can and catch the rest before it spreads. On goes the dehumidifier, the background noise that I live with constantly at the moment. Drip, drip, drip from around the front door. Slow seepage down the expensively repaired back of the chimney, which has begun to fail to repel the water again.
I haven’t the heart to light a fire to cheer the place up. All I can think is that it will make yet more mess that I have to clean up when I leave. I light candles instead, loads of them.
Is the clock ticking towards the end of my time here? I’m not sure. In some ways I can’t imagine life without my little bolthole or my blog. But these things aren’t me, any more than the job I left last year after more than quarter of a century was. I will find new ways to be and that will be ok too.
Posted in Country life, Personal | 3 Comments »