Friday, 2 March 2012

Walking.



After saying yesterday that Winter was still at Cotter Force, walking over the fields after lunch today the sun was really warm on our backs and you got the distinct promise of warm sunshine to come. These days - days of electric blankets, wood burning stoves, central heating, good food and plenty of warm coats and scarves - we can still appreciate the warmth of the late Winter sun. How much more so people in, say, the eighteenth century, when most of the population worked on the land - people of John Clare's time when there was no birth control and families were large (what else was there to do on cold Winter's nights?), when feeding the children was a priority and the farm labourers usually had a sack round their shoulders to ward off the cold and if there was a wet day they often had to stay at home (hence the expression 'saving for a rainy day'). In my neck of the woods - East Anglia - the winds blew straight in off the Urals, we used to say. There is nothing more cutting than an East wind; so how their hearts must have sung at these first signs that winter and spring are having their yearly battle. When it gets to March you know that Spring is going to win at some point

A song thrush was having a practice in the ash tree in the pasture. Not the full song, you understand - just a few little phrases, like the soloist in an orchestra who practises the hard bits over and over again before the full performance. And a robin was belting out a full song - not the cold, shrill song of Winter but a full-throated song of great beauty designed for the dual purpose of attracting a mate and warning off all other suitors.

The curlew seem to have already paired up and are circling round, calling to one another. It will be another couple of months before they nest in the long grass of our fields, but already they are bonding. The flocks have gone and they are in twos.

The tree full of rooks nests is having a good clear out. Twigs are being rejected and thrown down to the ground with lots of cawing and squawking; housekeeping for the rook is a noisy business and involves a lot of falling out.

Wild geese flew over this morning. You hear them before you see them. They fly in perfect formation and this skein were flying North, which the farmer always says is a good sign. Although if the weather forecast is to be believed they will soon be flying back South again as it is set to turn colder with the risk of snow after the weekend.

But Winter had better watch out. Try as it may, it cannot beat the lengthening days, the early rising sun, the heating up of the land (our neighbour is sowing his corn today). The fields are beginning to have lambs in them. Traditionally lambing is late up here but we saw a few yesterday on our return from Sedbergh and soon the fields will be full of them and the air will be full of the cries of mother sheep calling their naughty lambs back as they charge across the field, stop, turn and scamper back for no other reason than that it is fun to do.

There are baby rabbits in the fields. Tess dreams of catching one but is useless. This afternoon, she chased one into the wood across the beck, only for it to emerge a few yards down and pelt towards us while she went in the opposite direction. The farmer and I stood still, it stopped and then shot back into the woods again. Little did it know that we would have been no more adept at catching it than Tess is. Poor rabbits - they must live in fear and trembling of all the creatures that prey on them. The wood is full of rabbit holes but it is not altogether safe - I am sure that the fox knows exactly where they are, and the stoat too.

I can't let today's post go without a mention of the brave PC David Rathband, who died yesterday. I think he had captured all our hearts and had become such a hero. How very sad it is that he found it unbearable to live. As someone said on the news this morning - the whole nation is mourning him.

17 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Your opening paragraphs reminded me of the old story (Aesop's Fable?) of the battle between sun and wind when the wind tried to blow the man's coat off and the man took it off himself when the sun shone....
Love your nature study writing --so natural and crisp.
I looked up poor PC Rathbane. How horribly sad. So often the worst things happen after the initial tragedy.
Poor man who had suffered so much.

Reader Wil said...

You can write very descriptive and interesting. It is like a painting in words!
Thanks for your wise words on my blog.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Beautifully written. Things we see every year but don't always take the time to think about. Have a pleasant weekend.

Heather said...

Such a beautiful post Pat - I can almost see what you are talking about.
I am trying to make up my mind whether to put netting around my sweet pea wigwams but having heard the forecast I think I might be using fleece!
Very sad news of PC Rathbane. His family, friends and colleagues must be devastated.

Gwil W said...

I guess it's time to dig out the bird books. Some feathered friends are coming. Others are going. Or have gone. One new arrival today. Greenfinch.

H said...
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BilboWaggins said...

Surprising amount of warmth in the sun today and the first curlew was spotted.

H said...

We do not have such a wide variety of birds, but over the past few days, I have heard the blackbird busy tuning up for spring. It brings joy to the bones!

It was tragic to read about PC Rathbane. Such a waste. Poor man.

Elisabeth said...

Such a contrast between your beautiful walk and the news of this dead man. I had to look him up. I had not heard about him in Australia. So sad, such wasteful loss.

Robin Mac said...

You write wonderfully evocative nature pieces, I almost feel I am there with you Pat. So sad about that poor PC. I read about that this morning, not long after hearing an Aussie PC was shot dead after he stopped a car in a regional city yesterday. A policeman's life is not easy these days.

Bovey Belle said...

You are one of life's "lookers" - when you are out and about, you notice the minutiae of life, and so no wonder you are a poet, as that "seeing eye" is essential for poetry.

I loved hearing about your local birds. Alas, we have no rooks locally because the local Shoot won't tolerate them as they believe they (like other Corvids) are a threat to their young game birds. I'm inclined to disagree.

My thoughts go out to friends and family of PC David Rathband. He didn't deserve what happened to him, poor man.

Dave King said...

Always a joy to share your walks, but yes a solemn ending with thoughts of PC Rathband,

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for the comments.

Arija said...

Pat, thank you for your prayers and kind thoughts.
My sister was the last family member of my generation and the one person with whom I could share all my thoughts and who understood where I was coming from.

It is so good to see spring making an entrance where you are, while autumn creeps over our hills.
Looks like you are in for an early spring with the first lambs on the ground. North country sheep only lamb in spring whereas crossbreds will mate any time you put the rams in.

Toffeeapple said...

What a beautiful post, I enjoyed it enormously.

Pondside said...

One day this week I saw a whole flock of robins. It was the strangest thing. The robins weren't in the air, but on the ground - I tried to count and got to 30.
The days are lengthening here too, with light still in the sky at 6 pm. I can just see the yellow in the daffodil bulbs - one warm day.....it's all we need for an explosion of colour.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, the death of PC David Rathband was very sad, Pat.