This morning Nora took a very me on an almost-midsummer walk up Broomfield Hill, our local walking spot. We can walk there straight from the cottage when I have the energy. Other times, if I’ve been gardening all day or when the weather’s foul, we drive.
We hardly ever meet anyone and when we do, Nora growls as if to say: “what are you doing here on my hill?” So different from the town dog she is at other times, who sees probably about 20 dogs and more than 50 people a day. Today she growled at some loud people who had climbed over a decrepit gate into a field they shouldn’t have been in, taking engagement photos (they were very shouty which is why I know). So silly of them when there’s literally acres of open access and National Trust land right here on the hill. People, eh?
Nora’s favourite thing is finding some fox poo and rolling in it. Today there was a good harvest and she got lots of it under her collar. If it’s still early enough for dew or if it has been raining, I’ll get her to roll over in some long grass so that a little of it comes off her before we get home. Other times, I have to shampoo her with a special potion that more or less works but has its own curious aroma.
We walked past some highland cows and their calves who live on the hill. The calves all came running to their mothers when they heard us. They’re just a bit bigger than Nora. Their mothers are the size of a car and have long, pointy horns. I was glad they were on the other side of the fence because of the young. Sometimes they (and their poo) are all over the path, which can feel a little daunting, but on the whole they’re pretty timid and stay out of your way as you go by. I swear there was a bull one time though.
I got very excited today because I found some wild orchids growing on the hillside amongst the other wild flowers and grasses. Only about 20 centimetres (eight inches) tall, I wouldn’t have noticed them if I hadn’t decided to sit down in the sun. I think they were Common Spotted Orchids, not fully in flower here yet.
And here’s Cothelstone Hill with the Seven Sisters group of trees—a local landmark—on its summit, seen from Broomfield Hill. It’s such a lovely day that I’m going to get right out there again into the sunshine now.
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Walking in the woods on Saturday, it seemed to be getting lighter and lighter as we pressed on into the trees, mesmerised by the carpet of bluebells through which we were walking. I realised that we were coming to a large clearing and knew we must have reached a tree felling zone I’ve only seen from the road until now.
We had decided to turn left when we set out from the car park instead of right as most people do. It’s a popular walking spot and I wanted to avoid other people on this busy, sunny morning and hear some birdsong in amongst the trees.
There were no signs to tell us to keep out so I decided to walk along the edge of the felled area before taking up our intended walk again in amongst the broadleaved trees. This was a pine plantation that I’d heard had been compulsorily felled to prevent the spread of Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden Oak Death), a tree disease that, it is feared, may cause as much damage to the English landscape as Dutch Elm Disease did in the 1970s.
Having read up about it since, I’ve worried whether we should have entered the felling zone at all, as the disease can be spread by foot, but as the pines were felled to create a barrier and, in any event, our footwear wasn’t leaving the area and we only walked along the rutted track left by the logging trucks, so I hope no harm has been done.
The bluebells which are everywhere at this time of year, although not yet fully in bloom, are suddenly exposed on the bare ground in the sunshine. Blooming away as though nothing had happened, they look forlorn among the tree stumps and the deep scars left in the earth by heavy lorry tyres.
Fortunately, there are many, many other woods in this part of Somerset for the squirrels, birds, rabbits and other wildlife who have lost their habitat to move to, as it will take another half a century at least until this place returns to how it was just a year ago. We can only hope this ugly piece of destruction succeeds in preventing something very much worse.
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Posted in Country life, Personal, Walking, tagged Country life, countryside, England, seasons, Somerset, south west england, Spring, UK, walking, west country on 17/04/2015 |
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Frayed around the edges and over-sensitive for no good reason. Always the paradox of wanting to leave one place and be in another, and then the fret about doing it and what I might find when I arrive.
Work over the road going on apace. Winters Barn, sold at the end of last year together with the field it stands in, has been completely pulled down. The field is full of heavy machinery and the radio goes all day. A flock of sheep is grazing and they appear to be charmingly right in amongst all this but they aren’t. Closer inspection reveals an electric fence.
They’ve renamed the place and I disapprove. The old name was good and the new one inappropriate. Like the doubling in size of the cowsheds down the road, these changes make me feel sad. I liked what I’d found here – the remoteness and the dark skies. Now there is orange light on all night in one direction (why, do cows crave streetlight?) and soon there will be people over the road plus the additional traffic all this creates. It’s already a local rat run. You NIMBY incomer, I chastise myself. What makes you the arbiter of how things should be?
Nice things: Sunshine, birdsong, lambs bleating in the distance. Leaf buds bursting everywhere: hazel, beech, hawthorn and rowan. Blackthorn blossom, tiny flowers nestling among brutal thorns. Gorse now fully out and wafting coconut after months of being only half in bloom. Delicate little short-lived wildflowers crouching close to the ground, easily missed. A new fern stalk standing proud of the crushed fronds of last year’s dry remains, unfurling slowly as if stretching after winter’s long sleep.
And lazy, bad-tempered me, who didn’t bother to take a proper camera because it’s only a walk.
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Posted in Walking, tagged Country life, countryside, Dog, England, Quantock Hills, Somerset, UK, walk, walking, west country, winter on 26/01/2015 |
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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.
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But wait, I still have some pictures to share of that pretty white stuff. It’s all melted and wet now but it was lovely while it lasted. It makes everything so… I don’t know … picturesque, somehow. Silly, isn’t it?
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Now, what does a lilac sky at night mean?
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Posted in Animals, Country life, tagged countryside, Dog, dogs, England, garden, hedge, Home and Garden, Somerset, UK on 01/04/2014 |
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When Nora arrived she was small enough to slip under the gate to the back garden from the little contained area immediately around the house. Fortunately, that didn’t last long and for a few months it was safe to let her out of the back door knowing that she wouldn’t be able to run off and get lost.
Then she became a teenage dog and discovered exploring. Through the hedge she would go, unerringly finding the one section where there was a break in the ancient wire netting embedded in it. Terrifyingly, she would run out into the lane and then stand stock still in the middle of the road ignoring all calls for her to return. Heart stopping, knowing that people bomb down here fairly fast, although it’s often quiet for hours, lulling you into a false sense of security. Then she got even naughtier and started to jump over the ridiculously low back fence and go off foraging for things in the field behind the cottage. The fence was deliberately low, having been put up by my predecessor who favoured the view. Oddly, at that time the field was used for cattle grazing, which was brave or foolhardy of her, depending on your point of view, as she might have had a ton of cow land on her while she was sitting out in the sun. Worse than the possibility that Nora would leave an occasional poo among the growing crop was my fear that she would be seen. In the hills, you can see an animal from a long way off when it is the only moving object in a field, so I worried that the farmer would be annoyed that I’d let the dog loose on his land.
So, off I went to buy some wire fencing to temporarily (I hope) constrain her adventurousness until she is old enough to listen when she is told to wait and come down. It’s ugly, much harder to put up than I thought and knackered my hands completely, but it does the job and I hope to be able to take it down in about eighteen months or so.
I do feel rather sad at spoiling her fun as there are a lot of pheasants around at the moment and she’s very curious about them.
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