The big news of the week is that Autumn being here, the sheep have come. Hefted Swaledales, they have spent the Summer on "the tops" - high in the fells, roaming at will in the huge expanse of moorland around The Buttertubs - the pass that links Wensleydale and Swaledale. When the weather begins to close in up there they are gathered in and brought down to our relatively low land (600ft asl) for the Winter.
"Yippee," they think initially, "proper grass!" as they tumble and leap out of the cattle truck into lush grass the likes of which they haven't seen since last Winter. Once they have had their fill a few times they suddenly notice that there are stone walls around and they are hemmed-in. That's when they begin to plot to break out.
One got into the field with the Middleham racehorses early in the week. This morning one had joined the flock in a field belonging to our farmer neighbour and one was knee deep in the boggy ground in our little plantain, having broken the fence and crossed the beck to get there.
Stone walls present no deterrent. These sheep are nothing if not nimble. So I'll look out of the kitchen window and four or five will be playing tig along the top of a stone wall, teetering, knocking off stones and then probably jumping down on the wrong side.
After a few weeks they settle down for a fairly trouble-free Winter, although one or two of them have a nasty habit of suddenly dying for no apparent reason.
I intended to post a photograph of them this morning, but today is wet and windy; I don't feel like taking my camera up to the fields and they are all huddled along the shelter of the stone walls, having conveniently forgotten they are supposed to be moorland sheep who spend a lot of their lives in a howling gale.
This week I have been making an effort to improve the quality of my writing by trying to cut down on wordage. I know my greatest fault is "waxing lyrical", so I have spent the week trying to write haiku (5,7,5 syllables) in the hopes that it will tighten up my poetry. I leave you with one which I hope reflects Autumn (which has well and truly arrived here in The Dales).
On wet, black branches,
like lights on a Christmas tree,
red crab-apples glow.