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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Yesterday, I had too much of this trying to get here.
I make no apologies for taking a picture at the wheel. We weren’t going anywhere. We were stationary on the M4 motorway that runs from east to west across southern England. Or west to east, depending on where you’re heading.
The traffic cleared after a while but the two-and-a-half-hour journey had been so extended by then that the dog needed a walk. Realising roughly where we were, I decided to see if I could also fit in a glimpse of a starling murmuration on Shapwick Heath on the way home as it was almost dusk. So I turned off the motorway and promptly got lost. With a satnav. They’re only as good as the information they are fed, which, if I’m the user, can be sorely wanting.
Anyhow, I eventually found myself on a road running along a kind of narrow, raised causeway with a water-filled ditch on either side and decided to stop to let Nora out of her misery. All she did was go mad with sniffing and then squat down and arooooo at another dog because she was spooked.
These ditches are called rhynes (rhymes with ‘seen’ not ‘rhyme’, annoyingly). They make up part of the ancient drainage system that criss-crosses the low-lying Somerset Levels to keep the area useable and productive. This is the area that was so badly flooded last winter and you can see why.
It’s a complex patchwork of fields and waterways, dotted with windblown trees and little basic bridges to let livestock and tractors in and out of fields. There are no hedges – you don’t need them – just gates standing alone at the roadside.
You can see for miles. Here’s Glastonbury Tor on the horizon.
The hills are the first slopes of the Mendips.
The Levels have a peculiar beauty, very different to the surroundings with which I’m familiar up here in the Quantock Hills. There’s something quite elemental about an area that only exists because of the constant monitoring of water levels and small adjustments to outflows and inflows. Not sure I’d like to live here with the risk of flooding but there are some really pretty old villages in the area.
I did see a medium-sized murmuration but I wasn’t in the right spot, so I’m going to go back and have another try soon. I think I’ll take a look at a proper map first.
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I went back through my photographs today and realised that I’ve got very lazy about taking pictures, which I used to do with a passion when I first came to Somerset.
With the arrival of Nora the dog, now eighteen months old, the big camera’s excursions dwindled to only a few times a year. Then I bought a compact camera so that I didn’t have to lug the DSLR about and that kept me happy for a while, although I only really liked its ability to take pictures in low light. The rest of the images could be disappointing with the focus often not quite right. Being a bit longsighted doesn’t help and I’ve missed having a viewfinder. When I got a newer iPhone the photographic equipment’s outings stopped almost completely. It takes pretty good pictures and I can use Photoshop to improve the original, but I don’t enjoy it as much. So, although I haven’t made any resolutions this year — I hate the idea — I intend to go about a lot more with the big camera in 2015.
Here are some ‘proper’ photographs, then, that a recent photo request reminded me I had taken in 2010 in Montacute, a village centred around a late Elizabethan mansion, that I’ve blogged about before. They are not fantastic pictures. I don’t claim to be any kind of photographer but they remind me of a good day in a beautiful place.
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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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Posted in Animals, Country life, Walking, tagged England, photography, rural life, snow, Somerset, UK, walking, west country, winter on 14/01/2015 |
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Snow was forecast overnight. Drawing the curtains in darkness this morning, the electric outside light revealed a couple of centimetres of snow in the garden. Further afield, particularly uphill, there is a little more, so after a bone-warming bath and breakfast we head up the nearest hill for the dog to experience her first snowfall.
Before we can even get there, she goes a bit crazy in the garden but not at the snow, which she takes in her stride. It’s the frozen pond that freaks her out as she desperately tries to eat the incomplete sheet of ice covering it. “What’s this? Why can’t I pull it out? It’s so heavy. And COLD. I’ll zoom around like a lunatic because this is blowing my mind!”
The snow reveals all kinds of things I don’t normally see: footprints of birds and deer that have passed only a short while before, branches that arch above my head pointing at vaulted structures of deadwood and ivy. A new beauty. It also hides uneven ground, deep mud, drifts of leaves that trip me up, cowpats that squelch over my boots as they get sucked into the ground beneath. I forgive them all.
Back home now. Holed up, hunkered down, behind battened hatches, I listen to the wind whooming down the chimney. That is the noise that it makes. The fire finally decides to stop smoking and I relax and curl up on the sofa with a book, a cup of tea, thick socks, a blanket and a sleeping dog. Bliss.
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