Posts Tagged ‘Country life’

When I first moved here, my neighbours had opened permissive paths and bridleways across their land as part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. We could do a circular walk across their land, over hills and past ponds right from the front door without driving anywhere first. Since then, their old age and the austerity of the last few years have meant that the Council-run scheme ended and the paths fell into disrepair and were closed.

On the positive side, the closure of our most walked local route has meant I’ve been trying to discover new ways across the land nearby. Being a bit more adventurous and going in new directions is always a good thing.

We found a lovely walk the other day through the wood on the brow of the hill that I can see from my kitchen window. I haven’t found a way through the trees to a spot from which I can see the cottage yet, so lots more scope for exploration here.


labrador retriever

path through woods with dog


winter sunshine through trees

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tree in sunshinefrosty leavesthawing frosty leavesdry oak treetiny hazel catkins

black labrador

dog drinking from trough

We woke to a freezing house this morning because I hadn’t set the heating properly but the brightening landscape, clear blue sky and frosty ground soon resolved my annoyance.

Then Nora and I headed out up the hill for our morning walk. Unsually, we met my neighbour Suzie and her spaniels and Nora was delighted to play with them for a while. One of the things about country walks is that while people say hello more than in town, dogs don’t stop to play and people often apologise about their dogs sniffing yours, which is strange if you’re used to town dog behaviour. Single dogs are unusual – because they need the company I suppose.

Then I went off to get a Christmas tree from farmer John Hardwick at Cobbs Cross Farm just down the road. I could hardly get up the lane to the farm for people coming the other way down the narrow road. Looks like they’re doing well. I wrote about them in more detail a couple of years ago but they’ve got much more going on now. Someone there has definitely got an eye for an opportunity.

I was supposed to go Christmas shopping in Taunton – there was free parking but with the weather so lovely, I did some pruning instead and made a wreath for the front door with some of the results. It ‘s pretty ropey (you try making wreath with your dog running off with everything you put down for more than a second) and probably won’t last very long in this windy spot but at least it’s unique in its combination of bay leaves, heather and a few other bits and pieces. There’s even a tiny bit of holly.

Quite pretty, I think.

wreath on front door


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It’s been a long time since I written a post. I’m not enjoying the changes that WordPress have made to the interface; they seem to have made it harder rather than easier to write posts. I think I was just used to the slightly more technical way of doing it and find the ‘improved experience’ trickier as I don’t post as frequently these days. I’m using the old-style ‘classic’ interface but it seems to have lost some of the functionality I was used to. Oh well, mustn’t grumble, eh?

grapes on the vine

I meant to write this post weeks ago when I had just made some jelly from the grapes that grow on the little vine in the back garden. This year they were so plentiful and big that I was determined not to let the birds have all of them.

bucket of picked grapes

So I picked a bucketful and made grape jelly. Well, I say jelly but it’s not quite jelly as it didn’t quite set. It’s more like grape gloop. But it tastes good and goes well with meats. We’ll be having some with the turkey at Christmas. (Shh, I’m not going to say more on that subject yet, it’s still too early.)

cooked grapes in muslin cloth

The process is similar to making jam and I found the recipe at The Cottage Smallholder, which is useful for all kinds of things.

grapes straining through muslin

Now all we have to do is eat it.

jar of homemade grape jelly

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Small things


Sometimes it’s the little things that make my day. Like the passionflower which I bought from Morrison’s for £3 flourishing on the side of the woodshed. I thought it would die during the winter, so buffeted did it get on our exposed hillside.

Like our wasps’ nest. They’re squatting in the bird box on the side of the garage. The hole you can see in this rather fuzzy picture (I was holding the phone above my head with rather shaky hands – see previous post) is where I poked the crepe bandage-like structure inside with the end of the shears because I was wondering what it was. I’d never seen one before.

I soon knew. They all came flying out to have a look at what was attacking them but they didn’t seem very aggressive. I left them to calm down and go back inside, which they did quite quickly. When I went back later to check, the hole I made seemed to have been mended or to have mended itself. I will have to do some research into wasps’ nests now to find out how.


Like my ‘exciting’ 15 minutes in the garden one night. While I was standing there waiting for the motion-activated outside light to go off so that I could well and truly lurk in the dusk, an owl turned up and sat on the telegraph wires. I could only see its outline but it was obviously an owl with its massive round head and silent, swooping flight. It’s my first owl sighting, although I hear them quite a lot from the woods nearby. From the calls I’d say it was a tawny.

rainbow over country scenery

And like the rainbow that was so complete and huge that I couldn’t fit both ends of it into the picture. There was a rainbow on the day I moved into the cottage and I’ve always thought of them as a good omen, although they usually signify an impending shower.

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flower trug hanging from nails


shed crop


The woodshed is one of my favourite places at Spring Cottage, although I like all the outhouses, of which there are three; there’s also a garage (used mainly to store gathered wood for kindling) and an ancient stone building known as the wash house.

I’ve worked out that the woodshed’s 1960’s windows used to be the kitchen windows before my predecessor ‘improved’ things with a wide span of double-glazed panes overlooking the fields. The trouble is that the double glazing has let moisture in between the panes, so the build-up of condensation often means you can’t see out as clearly as you might like to. But, that aside, at least the woodshed has some nice windows.

The light is lovely in there on a fine evening, and the building is warm and smells gorgeously woody. The floor is covered with wood-chips, fragments of bark and butterfly wings however much I sweep. I don’t know why so many butterflies seem to meet their ends in here; perhaps they find the log pile a good place to rest.

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I’ve always longed for a garden trug but new ones are really expensive and it’s something you can easily do without. After all, a cardboard box or a plastic basket of some kind work just as well for holding picked flowers until you bring them indoors. Also, until I came to Spring Cottage I didn’t really have any flowers to pick so a trug had to wait. P1010966 Now, however, Spring brings loads of daffodils and other narcissi, and I also plant all kinds of seeds in my cut flower beds specifically to grow things to bring inside. So I’m enjoying a clapped out old trug that I bought last summer at a car boot sale for three quid. It’s a bit brittle and won’t last for ever but I’ve waterproofed it a little by painting it with Danish oil and it now looks as thought it’s a family heirloom, which I much prefer to things being brand new. It kind of goes better with the ancient nature of the cottage, looks suitably rustic hanging in the woodshed, and I can spend the money saved on seeds instead.

The main flowerbeds here are in the front garden, which is at the side of the cottage, if that makes sense. Being at the side, at the gable end of the house, there is no window overlooking it. So I have to bring flowers in if I want to see them more than in passing on the way to the car. in hedge Many of the daffodils have also been planted under the various hedges. Well, they would have originally been under the hedges but now they are in the hedges, the hedges having grown widthways as well as in height over the years. So the daffs need rescuing before they are forced to bend over by the branches sprouting above them. daffodils on windowsill

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It’s a beautiful, sunny day. The heath is covered with people delightedly expanding their lungs in the sunshine they’ve longed for through a very wet, dreary winter. “Come on,” they call out to their friendly, hairy, tail-wagging companion. “Come on, this way.” But Bonzo is oblivious, circling ominously, looking as though his brain has been commandeered by something he cannot control, which, in fact, it has. Bonzo needs to poo. His owner retraces his steps, fiddling determinedly with a little plastic bag that he can’t quite open and isn’t quite big enough. He puts his hand in it and waits. Bonzo finishes his business with a back-leg scritchy-scratch in the earth that does everything to upheave all the leaves nearby but nothing to cover the shit. Bless. His owner steps forward and scoops up the crap, making a little involuntary moue of distaste as his fingers encounter the warmth of the animal’s excrement through the thin plastic. He ties a knot in the top of the bag using the useful little handles and steps away, leaving the bag neatly at the base of a tree, by the side of a bench, hanging on a bush or occasionally, in desperation, just out in the open. “Come on, Bonzo,” he calls again, breathing deeply in the refreshing country air and they walk on – man and his best friend.

I picked up five plastic bags of other people’s dogs’ poo this afternoon. That’s five people who should have known better. Five people who adopted or bought a dog but think that their dog’s poo isn’t their responsibility. That it just gets magicked away by the fairies overnight so that they can walk in unspoiled countryside again whenever it suits them. Five people who didn’t give a shit their actions another thought.

As far as I’m concerned, I have fed my dog and what she has eaten needs to come out the other end. Not the most awful thing that could happen. Believe me, some of the things Nora has found on our walks (used condoms, dead sheep) have been worse. Actually, I may have borrowed the used condom experience from a friend but it’s still relevant. So, Nora’s poo is pretty ok to me. It’s just kibble processed by her digestive system. Fine. So long as I behave sensibly and wash my hands afterwards there’s nothing to be afraid of. But there seem to be quite a few people who feel that their dogs’ poo isn’t their problem. They take their beloved pooch for a walk – in the city, in the country – bagging up the poo… and then leave it on the spot instead of taking it home to flush away.

I literally don’t understand this. I boggle. My understanding comes to a screeching, sparking, teeth-on-edge, chalk screaming on the blackboard kind of halt.

Isn’t your dog’s shit yours to look after? Who made others the crap wardens? And, if you walk your dog in the countryside and can’t be bothered with the whole taking it home or binning it thing, isn’t it better to leave the poo au naturel than to bag it and hang the ‘baggie’ on a bush where it weathers (the plastic usually being biodegradable), eventually letting the excrement fall to the ground, where it will eventually decompose, in the meantime decorating the environment with blotches of unnatural colour and, eventually, shreds of plastic that can make birds and small animals gag, and spoil the views of other walkers in the meantime. Wow, long sentence! Actually, that’s what I’d give them: a long sentence.

In the more far-flung countryside, on bridle paths and public footpaths, bag dropping actually happens relatively rarely. Dog owners generally tend to kick the faeces into the bushes, just leave it, or take it home in a bag. It’s popular walking spots in the country with few or no bins, within easy reach of towns, where people might have to walk for an hour carrying – oh my god – a little bag of their own pet’s poo, that this happens most.

And in towns and cities, well, I just don’t get it at all. I just want to give all these people a toddler on a scooter and leave them to clear up the mess when he scoots over a doggie bag that bursts. I want them to be the person whose doorway these bags get left in almost every day.

So please, if this is you on a dog walk, just take that little warm bag back with you. There you go.

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