Sunday, January 13, 2013

A rambling walk, or a walk while rambling...

Sunday 13 January, how lovely to see a clear sky and some winter sun this morning, it immediately lifts the spirits. Just as I went into the chickens’ run, the church bells from the town rang out, a good mile away, and floated down the valley. Their sound then seemed to be coming from the other direction, we get very strange acoustings in this valley sometimes! The fact that I could hear the bells meant a north wind. But did I go back inside and get a scarf - of course not!

The back lane and its beech leaf carpet.
The dog walk was lovely, with the crisp, golden sunlight throwing everything into sharp relief. The back lane, still with its carpet of beech leaves – they never really go, simply get re-arranged by the wind and rain up and down this lovely old sheltered path – was gorgeous to see. The beech hedge, bare now, was all texture and colour but then it has the capacity to look wonderful at any time of the year.

And it doesn’t just look wonderful, it also sounds wonderful. In spring, the new bright green leaves flutter gently like small wings. In summer it purrs and sighs as the full leaves move in the breeze. Come autumn it rustles and hisses as the paper-dry leaves rattle in then wind. Then, in winter, it roars and thunders as gales tear through its bare branches.

Cromwell's Knob.
As I got to the top of the back lane, the beech behind me, the wind kicked in and I regretted the lack of a scarf. My damp gloves - stuffed in my pockets overnight after a hideously wet and muddy walk in mid Devon yesterday - chilled my hands very efficiently!

At this point, the view to the left, down the Wray Valley is a favourite, the curious little hill I’ve christened ‘Cromwell’s Knob’ and then the valley fading away into the distance was this morning stark and dramatic.

Cormwell's Knob last winter...
will we see this snowy view again this year?
Cromwell’s Knob? There was a lot of activity in this area during the civil war - Moretonhampstead being dull old roundheads and Chagford, as you would expect, being cavaliers and making the most of all the flouncy clothes and flowing locks! Cromwell is supposed to have rallied his troops near here and I always think the little knoll would have made a good spot for his warty features to have been viewed by the locals as they gathered round in readiness to go and kill each other…

I digress. Marching down across Pond Field with Tilly running round like an idiot after the ball, in the distance, Moretonhampstead seemed hunkered down against the hillside, shrinking from the chill north wind. A bank of pewter cloud lurked over the moor threatening yet more rain. But to the south, it was still clear and sunny.

On arriving back in the garden, it was lovely to be greeted by the contented sound of chickens doing their morning ‘thing’. This involves scratching at the earth with great enthusiasm, viciously picking mites and other unmentionables off each other and generally ambling about in a vague manner. All this is accompanied by a delightful soft babbling of ‘pocking’ and ‘pucking’ sounds, like chattering old ladies at a coffee morning. Their different voices are fascinating - sometimes raucous, sometimes irritatingly repetitive - but today, in the winter sunshine, contented and gentle and happy.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A weird harbinger of spring...!

Well, you have to give her 10 out of 10 for effort! None of my five hens has laid an egg for about two months - combination of short daylight hours, dismal weather and their old age.

Yesterday, after a few glimpses of sun, one of them heaved out this weird offering. When Neil first brought it in, it was whole, but with a patchy, sandy texture, and a curious bump on one end.

This morning, the sub-standard eggshell finish has cracked in the warmth of the house and the whole thing looks rather sorry for itself. Still, I will regard this as a harbinger of spring, even if a slightly unsightly one!