Posts Tagged ‘pheasant’

I’m actually going to get dressed and get out of the house on this beautiful morning but, before I do, here’s a picture of a pheasant that I snapped in my pyjamas (me, not it, in the pyjamas). It was surprising that I could get so close because the stupid creatures usually scuttle off at the slightest disturbance. The wind must have been in the right direction, for once. I just love their plumage.

pheasant in the sun

In the last few days, I’ve been so struck by the beauty of the robin’s song. Such a small bird with a lovely varied voice – here is the little bird below recorded on my phone today. He or she carried on for ages this morning, adding to the springlike feel of the day.

robin singing

Will say more about the simply delightful hoards of snowdrops in the gardens and other signs of spring soon. Although, if you see the article below, you’ll wonder if this is wise.

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Postscript: 13 Feb 1,774 more or less – pen was hard to write with in the rain.

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January

Floodtime:  We had a pipe burst in the loft over the kitchen and I learned to leave the heating on and turn off the water at the mains when I leave.

lkj

February

Repairtime: So many things wrong with the house all of a sudden that it became rather depressing to be here but we got through it.


March

In which my neighbour brought me some eggs from the farm, Spring Cottage had lots of visitors and I was reimbursed for the flood by the insurance.


April

When Spring arrived at the cottage, as did a lorryload of logs, and the house was painted. We also celebrated our first year here.

;l

May

Started with a bang. On the day I collected my new car, I had a crash. Racing, double-barrelled cow driving the other car, who then lied about what happened. I’m still annoyed…

l

June

We settled into enjoying the cottage this month, with visitors and summer times in the garden. Nice that the pace slowed down a little.


July

During which nothing much happened and blogging really almost stopped, only to be followed by…

;l


flower
August

During which the blog went public. I had a holiday down here, and blogged like a woman possessed. I also journeyed to the beautiful Montacute House, south of here, and did lots of gardening.


riding clothesSeptember

Brought the discovery that what I thought was mainly an ornamental vine in the garden, actually had grapes on it. I also celebrated the first comment on the blog and went riding for the first time.

autumn leavesOctober

October arrived with the cheque from the insurers for the car accident in May. It took five months for them to settle the claim, because they are a pile of idiots. I started having riding lessons.

November

In which Spring Cottage had eight lads to stay and there was the first snow before Christmas for many years.


December

Was cold and frosty, with snow covering everything for the best part of a fortnight. It was frustrating not to be able to get to the cottage despite the Tank – although this was mostly cowardice rather than practicality.

Happy New Year! I hope 2011 brings all the things everyone wishes for, combined with good health and happiness.

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I bet one of the tabloids has already thought of my headline too… actually, I see that it was The Guardian yesterday. I’m busy with indoor pursuits at the moment and may say more later but here, for the moment, are some pictures of life down here this morning.

And then, there were a load of footprints in the back garden (above); I thought at first that these were a child’s footprints but on closer inspection they disappeared into the hedge between the garden and Higher Close (the field behind the cottage), so they must have been some kind of animal. But I wonder what – the prints were quite far apart, so something quite big, maybe a deer?  I’m about too go and Google animal footprints to see if I can find out.

Postscript: probably rabbit, although having just been for a freezing walk across the fields, rabbit tracks look quite different to this with all four pawprints being either quite close together or in pairs of two, depending on their gait.

It’s lovely seeing the very altered landscape that the snow has brought; the usually colourful patchwork of the fields has been turned almost black and white, with the brownish hue of the trees, now blown clear of snow, standing out against the various shades of white of the ground. The fields vary in the intensity of their whiteness depending on the texture of what is growing in them. From here, up in the hills, I can also see that there is no snow down on the Levels and, in fact, there’s only about two inches here but it has stayed all day and shows no sign of going. I saw that it’s freezing up again on my short walk over to Manor Farm just now but it looks like riding will be possible tomorrow, as the farm lies much lower than we do and the arena was quite clear of snow.

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But the reality is that I also spend time lagging the loft…

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horse across the laneSally, who is teaching me how to ride, also runs a driving school locally. She is obviously very good at teaching people how to make things move. She says learning to drive is easier than learning to ride. I didn’t dare tell her how many times I failed my driving test! Sunday was lesson two. I was all over the place with my hands and feet, and confused poor Spot, the horse, terribly – I always thought I had good coordination but it appears not to be the case. Although we did manage a canter for about 10 seconds, most of the time was spent riding round the arena rather slowly, urging him to trot, which he didn’t. Oddly, I do better with my feet out of the stirrups, which is the treatment for idiots who don’t put their heels down properly, than with them in. Sometimes I feel like I’m never going to get the hang of it, yet each lesson makes me want to get straight back on and have another go.

Sally’s horse is a really beautiful thoroughbred, a failed racehorse (he just didn’t want to run apparently), called Frank. When you stroke him, his coat feels like velvet. His bloodline goes back to Nijinsky, she says. Rather nicer than the rather stubborn Spot. This is one of their horses in the field across the lane from the cottage last year. These days the lovely horses have been replaced with cattle, which are not quite so beautiful.

I should record that I don’t just come down here and swan around in the lanes and get atop horses. I also spent a good three or four hours on Sunday trimming the long hedge at the front of the house. Using manual shears and an electric hedge trimmer, I always think it won’t take long. But I forget about the clearing up, which is at least an hour of raking and carting the hedge detritus to the compost heap.

view from back of house over Severn EstuaryThe gate to the field is back, now that the maize harvest has been brought in. But they haven’t finished building whatever it was in the field that caused them to take it away in the first place, so it’ll probably disappear again soon, or perhaps they’ll replace it, as it seems really rickety now and is kind of leaning over.

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alarm pheasantWoken this morning by the alarm pheasant, which definitely has no snooze setting, I found I had, inexplicably, a completely different head on my shoulders.It was still sunny, like yesterday, but today seemed even more glorious. My bedroom radiator is still not working and the central heating continues to make its annoying, occasional banging noise that means I have to leap out of bed to stop it destroying the pipework with its force. The hedge is still dying and holey in places, and the door bumper strip is still hanging off the newly ‘repaired’ car. But today, I can deposit all these things in the trivia box, where they belong.

holford derelictI couldn’t really mind the early start, since there have been so few pheasant compared to last year. Last year at this time we were overrun with them and their surprised calls filled the air at all times of day, whenever you opened the back door or a window. These were not wild pheasant in the proper sense since they were being farmed, albeit free range, at Great Holford. Once, when I went for a walk throught their land, I came across a derelict farmhouse with literally hundreds of pheasant being reared in the fields around about, with feeding troughs and everything. But I haven’t been over the same way this year, so I’m not sure if this has been curtailed.

stable picture

Having now purchased a load of riding gear (two things that are really not nice to borrow – someone else’s sweaty boots and hat), I went up to Manor Farm for a riding lesson, which turned into a hack because of a mix-up. I didn’t mind as it was nice to learn a bit more about the area from Sue as we went along, and the views from the top of the hills were fabulous – really clear all the way over to Wales. Once or twice, I had a lovely feeling of moving comfortably in time with the horse’s stride instead of thinking i was going to fall off. More lessons required.

When I got back I suddenly felt enormously tired and weird, so after a nap I raced back to London. If I’m going to be ill, I’m going to do it at home. Perhaps that’s why I felt so down yesterday?

Just found some pictures on my phone, which I took while I was returning from a huge wild goose chase yesterday afternoon. For a while, my enormous, aimless drive did make me feel better, even if I never found Langport:

Temple of Harmony

the Temple of Harmony, a tiny Greek temple, which I discovered by pure chance in a lane as I was driving towards Enmore. So odd to see this in the middle of the Somerset countryside.

And these totally chocolate box cottages were in Goathurst, I think. I’m sure I once had a jigsaw puzzle of a picture just like this.

I’m never disappointed by the area and feel so lucky that I landed somewhere so lovely, almost by chance.

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Spring Cottage with the Honeytree ladies this weekend. The weather was wonderful, it was really nice to have company and we had a lovely time. It was the last weekend that we will have both girls with us before university – and another era – starts.

We drove to Watchet on Saturday, via lunch in an excellent pub/restaurant in Bicknoller (a find that I must remember), where there was an art exhibition as part of Somerset art week. I bought a giclee print by a local-ish artist in the show. Soon the cottage will have colour on its walls.

Followed by a quiet drink before supper at the Travellers’ Rest, which was quieter than I’ve ever seen it. I discovered that it doesn’t open until 7pm which is why I couldn’t go last weekend. What a clot! I felt a bit guilty that we didn’t eat there, but went home to have some delicious pasta made by one of my guests.

The silliest part of the weekend was when we were suddenly invaded by about seven pheasant in the garden. I’ve never seen so many of them, or such brazen ones, before. IMG_3072 pheasantI think they must have been attracted by the growing crop of ripening blackberries a the back of the house. I think they were juveniles as they didn’t have long tail feathers or female colouring.

We did mainly local walks from the house this weekend, up Broomfield Hill on Saturday, to get a sense of the locality and then over to Manor Farm on Sunday.IMG_3079walk

I am so lucky to have found such a wonderful place. The more I learn about my neighbours and the surrounding area, the more I like it. On our walk through Manor Farm, we met John Honeyball, whose details were given to me by Lady-Vendor way back in April. He was on his way back from church in his mobility vehicle with a trailer on the back with two lovely big dogs and offered us a lift. He is such a character  — I don’t mean that to sound patronising, he just is more colourful than ordinary mortals — beautifully got up in a tweed suit, waistcoat and bowler hat and possessed of a wonderful turn of phrase.)

He told us that he’d trained racehorses, which I already knew from the farm’s website which I’d been looking at when I was thinking of going riding, and that he’s been a master of hounds, which I am recording here for my holey memory’s sake. He showed us the way to the path that we were trying to follow through Manor Farm’s yard and explained a bit about the countryside stewardship scheme. The Rowes at Great Holwell do his hedge topping for him nowadays as he can no longer drive a tractor. Although very limber, he’s clearly quite elderly but very spry with quite a twinkle in his eye. I hope I get old like that. He reminded me of Granny and her siblings as I remember them during my childhood before they got decrepit.

It was very nice to work out more of how everything locally fits together. I get a very clear sense of how the immediate local area is split between these two farms more or less. The walk home along the path pretty much across the field opposite Spring Cottage, so now I know a short cut to the farm, if ever I need one. And can start a walk virtually over the road from the house.

Fabulous.

Postscript 27 September 2010: a year later, I now know that Lady-Vendor owned a racehorse that was trained by John Honeyball in the 1980s. They clearly knew her well. I researched this after a slightly mystifying conversation while I was on a ride with Sue Honeyball. It doesn’t help that conversations on horseback are often over the shoulder… It’s fascinating to find out about people, it really is

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I’m here to spend my first holiday and it feels wonderful not to have to rush back to London as usual. It was also the cats’ first visit. They are getting used to it – Percy, true to character, is the more curious and has been following me about; Dixie has spent quite a lot of time in their basket and under the sofa. Percy is quite scared of the cows in the field opposite which he can see from the windowsill, and they are both spending quite a lot of time creeping about in a crouch.

Completely mystified by the discovery of a dead bat on the kitchen doormat. I have no idea how it could have got into the house. All three doors into the kitchen had been shut while I was away, as were the windows, and there’s no way in via the extractor fan. The hatch to the loft was shut. It was interesting to look at, as I’ve never seen a bat before: about the size of a mouse, the colour of Dixie, with little black folded up legs and crepey wings. Some of it seemed to be missing, so perhaps it had been brought in – but by what? Perhaps it got in while Boy and I were here last and hid itself somewhere until we left.

I finally assembled my bed and was delighted that it didn’t need the two people recommended by John Lewis. A couple of wooden crates took the place of  the second person with no trouble. My life all over again.

While I was doing that, I glanced out of the window and saw a red deer grazing in one of the fields at the size of the Enmore road. It was lovely to watch it through my binoculars – it was a female – a hind, I think lady-deer are called. Quite difficult to see, as it was waist high in whatever the crop is, so it looked like it was swimming. Later, I saw about four more running through whatever crop is growing over there. The farmers must love them. There is deer poo in the field immediately behind the house, so sometimes they must come very close.

Later, I startled two pheasant in the garden, who scuttled away noisily sounding affronted. They really are the most lovely looking, but ungainly, birds. I wonder whether people shoot them because they seem to find it so difficult to escape, uttering their cries of outrage.

Very annoyed to find that I’d burnt my back pottering around in the garden. Hadn’t realised that I’d spent long enough out there for that and since it was intermittently spitting, it was also quite surprising.

The cottage is hot upstairs under the roof, but the living room is cool, cool, cool. In fact, I put the central heating on for a while as the sofas actually felt rather damp. Damp is obviously a bit of an issue here, especially when there’s no heating to counteract it while I’m away.

As I write this, sitting in bed with a cup of tea in the morning of the first of July, a cow (a steer, really, but it doesn’t sound as nice – I shall call them cow-boys, instead, as coined by a dear friend) has wandered into sight to scratch its head against the telegraph pole’s tensioned steel wires. They are beautiful – all browns and greys, none of the dull black and white Friesian variety, which is good to see. The trouble is they bring a lot of flies with them and I’ll have to buy something to stop that. Oh good—pilgrimage to B&Q in the offing.

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