Friday, 17 February 2012
Come with me on a walk in the country.
It is a long time since you came along with Tess and me on our afternoon walk, so why not come along today? It is a dull day but there is little wind and the temperature is quite high for February, so walking conditions are ideal and we set off across our own fields.
We cross over away from the footpath to where the first hazel catkins always appear and sure enough, before we reach the hazel shrub in the hedge, we see them hanging there. We also see something else though. Just above the catkins, sitting quietly in the branches is a little owl. We watch him and he watches us. We stand and eventually he flies off in a leisurely fashion, not so much afraid as tired of our little game. There are not many catkins out and I hold a branch with one hand and photograph them with the other - the result is rather out of focus from my trembly hand, but I love their red tips and they are, after all, the first sign of Spring.
Pushing through the gate we cross the bottom of what we call the racehorse field. This is one field which does not belong to the farmer and it has been carefully fenced off to keep the horses in. They only come in the Summer so now it is quite empty - apart from the rabbits. And they are everywhere. Because it has been a mild winter they have already started breeding and half grown rabbits can soon be seen if one stands for a minute or two. Every hole we come to seems to have been freshly dug out.
The beck runs low and chilly-looking, its sides just dead grass - no sign of marsh marigold or celandine yet. And under the pine trees last year's cones lie undisturbed. Most of the trees on the sides of the beck here are alder trees and their catkins are just beginning to turn a deep red. A few days of warm sunshine would make all the difference.
But in the old hedgerows - or cams as they are called up here - where most of the bushes have died away and only some ragged old hawthorns remain, there is no sign at all of anything but bare, black wood.
As soon as we reach the lane, our friend - Blackie, the black farm cat, - is waiting for us. Well, waiting for milk more like. He and Tess greet each other, as they always do, and then Blackie walks directly in front of me so that I cannot possibly avoid him until I reach the back door. Milk in his saucer and he is happy. We come back into the warm kitchen, having enjoyed our walk.
Now to make some scones for tea.