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.
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