Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Roadside Stalls No 2




The drive home along some winding north Dorset roads yielded this treasure trove of locally grown apples from a smallholders orchard...

Monday, 22 July 2019

Market Finds No 25


The wonderful world of Winfield...a magnificent market find which was tucked away out of sight. Just waiting to be put back into service with half a pint of white gentles, a few reds and a generous sprinkling of curry powder. Change from a pound for this childhood memory - I had quite a lot of Winfield tackle as a nipper.


Tuesday, 16 July 2019

First knockings....


I like the prospect of a dawn start which coincides with the high tide...it's the best start to a day, especially when the forecast is set good and gives me the rest of the day to do other things as well. 

The beach car park was busy at 4am - a mix of anglers, beach campers, dog walkers and those recovering after too many libations around the fires which now smouldered in the early morning hush. As per usual I walked as far away as I possibly could from everyone. The terns confirmed my plan a good one as in the distance I could see a few diving for whitebait.

Within half an hour the old Dennis Pye was casting out, not to the distant horizon but a fair chuck where the fish were hitting the tiddlers - it wasn't long before a hollow in the shingle was the final resting place for my mackies.....these destined for the freezer as winter pike bait. 

The Kelly was duly fired up for the first brew of the day and tackle changed to catch a couple more on a small lure close in before the tide changed. It wasn't long before it was all over and another angler decided to fish next to me.....with miles of beach he decided my spot was the one....I decided on another brew before heading home.

That contemplative moment when all is done and all is good is magical - time to just watch the day unfold...a mix of birds coming in...egrets, yaffles, swifts galore and then the cry went up from the terns....a peregrine. The other angler didn't notice. No response either as I wished him tight lines as I headed back up the beach. It was a joyous drive home along the Jurassic Coast Highway with the swifts still screaming above.  






Friday, 18 January 2019

This land is our land...


We enjoy living near the top of a hill very much indeed - it was high on the list of priorities, not just for the vista which is important for the soul, but all the other extras that come with it......especially if you don't live at the very top. There is always something then to look forward to.

I take in the view of its crown slightly to my west every day - I have got to know its moods, sounds and notice the changes as the seasons move through the year. There was a short period in my life when I forgot such things. I failed to notice them, but it all came back and they are now as deep and as part of me as they are ever going to be.

From down here just watching the wind whistling through the beech, ash and elm is enough some days, but to get the best out of it you need to be up on it, in it and almost let it envelope you. Selfish I know, but I have on occasion called it my hill - it is not mine, it is our hill. It belongs to all of us even though it is owned by others who may not always see it, love it, enjoy it and have its best interests at heart as perhaps others who have deep likings for it. 

Today the wind is blowing. It's a cold wind ahead of much colder days to come, but my window is open and I can hear the wind on the hill as it tears through the trees. No other sound is necessary. I often have this certain window open to get my fix - sometimes to hear the constant call of tawny owl who call day and night to their pals down the hill by the river, hear the raark of raven, tappity tap of yaffle, chatter of rooks or observe the silent hunt of peregrine which hunt on the hill away from their cliff top nesting sites by the sea.....after a few years I am starting to know it, understand it by watching and listening from down here or up there on it.


I often walk up there alone. It is wonderful however with my children as they notice many of the lovely things that I do not and there is nothing like walking in an environment with so much to offer so near to home. The great comfort that the home fires are not too far away. In spring and summer my eldest son walks home over the hill and I can hear the chatter and laughter of teenage boys from some way away....he too is getting his fix. I get most of my fix alone. I like it like that as I get the best of both worlds, but it just so happens that alone is when it sees me right.    


From the top I see Eggardon slightly to the north east, the hillocks that line the route of the old railway line towards Maiden Newton and to my north, south and east the delights of Marshwood, Pilsdon, Golden Cap, Thorncombe Beacon, Colmers Hill and Lewesdon to name just a few. My path to the top is part of a longer route known as the Monarch's Way. This 625 mile route was the escape route of  King Charles II in 1651 after being defeated in the Battle of Worcester. 

What gives me greater pleasure is knowing the hunted protagonist of Rogue Male (1939) by Geoffrey Household used this section of path between Sydling St Nicholas, past my house and up over the hill as he headed towards North Chideock......fiction I know, but pleasing all the same. As I look west I pick out his route and imagine the deep lanes which I can almost follow by naked eye as they drop into a network of otherworldly places. Places I have likings for almost as much as this hill.

Such places are always on the cusp of being interfered with, "improved", tampered with, mis-managed for the benefit, usually, of one rather than the masses. Without folks who have the passion and love for such places they can be lost. Sometimes beyond repair and more often than not it is those who do have such passions for them who can feel like they are the in the wrong.....too over sensitive. Let's just say I am one of those.

My visits to the hill have lately been tarnished with such thoughts. Overzealous clearing of hedge, scrub and undergrowth has been carried out in earnest, quickly as if someone or somebody has a plan they wish to execute quickly.......execute?

I have always been nervous of centrally driven Government targets which have little to do with local need........you see it here where over the years parishes have grown along communication routes to eventually join larger settlements and in the end almost all the space between has been lost.....this is what I fear for the hill. Some are hoodwinked by the terms often used on the back of such developments knowing that it may just give them extra weight to a development - affordable, smart housing, community, environmentally friendly, shared ownership, eco.....  

For now, I will keep listening to the wind and look forward to my next visit....I'll stop calling it my hill, it's our hill, our land.  

  

Monday, 24 December 2018

Bringing in the green...


It's been a tough few weeks - one of those periods where even stopping to reflect has been difficult. On a dark windy solstice day I decided I needed to take time out to just take stock and listen to the wind as it whispered through the trees.

My favourite local hollow lane, holloway, dark lane or deep lane is just up the road from me. It's short unlike some of its more famous neighbours, but I find it the most atmospheric. Iv'e foraged here, brewed tea, slept, day dreamed and generally switched off, but today I just wanted to take in the air. I see it in all seasons, but like it with its thin winter cloak.



It worked. As soon as I dropped down into it I knew I had done the right thing. The quiet, other than the eery tune of wind above, was just the tonic - I walked, slipped and stumbled its full length before turning back for the steep climb.

I found, or it found me, the perfect yule log which is now drying by the fire for the festive days ahead. Some holly to green the house and all is looking good. Make time to stop. There will hopefully be more opportunities in the dark days ahead, but for now I am content to have heard the sound of the wind on this the shortest of days.  




Friday, 21 December 2018

Rude veg


It's juvenile I know, but what with the current craze for wonky veg (you're all light years behind me by the way) I couldn't resist these two recent finds. The carrot was my very own and the butternut squash was in our veggie box - I am sure the box chaps do it on purpose as this is not the first ummm, well you know, appendage, ummm thingummy shaped squash....it won't be the last either I bet. 


Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Gone, but not forgotten


Elements of the landscape or items that form part of a buildings structure should never be taken for granted. It's easy to do so as these things we have likings for just tend to be in the background giving us comfort as we go about our everyday business.

One such example is my post box - not a local post box for me, but one I have passed, admired and visited often on my travels. I have liked it so much that I reserved it for the posting of my extra special mail. 

I remember the time the bees took over the box - I watched them for a considerable time as no vehicle or pedestrian came down that country lane. It formed part of an old tumbling cob farm out-building. I have a liking for the building as well with its corrugated iron and general untidiness.



I shall post my special post from this box no more.......it has gone, but certainly not forgotten. 

Friday, 14 December 2018

The social pike


I hadn't been fishing for weeks and weeks. You know how it goes....stuff comes up from all angles and it just doesn't happen. The date had been in the diary for weeks. It was never going to move as it is one of the most eagerly awaited trips of the fishing season - The Christmas Pike Social.

I fish with my pal Jim regularly, but this trip involves another good friend who I sadly only seem to see on this festive social trip and we enjoy the day from the minute we start planning where, what food, what libations and then it stumbles to tactics and weather until the day finally arrives and we greet each other like excited schoolboys.

The Dorset Stour is always our venue of choice and we were lucky after some recent lumpy weather that the river was just fishable for our day. Colour had only just dropped out and the level was down by quite a few feet. We exchange small gifts before we start and then the most social of days begins.


It's not just about the pike. I am pretty sure we three have fishing as an excuse for actually just being there in the landscape, in nature, breathing it, smelling it and seeing it. Each year this trip provides us with pleasure for what we see - otters, egrets, lapwing, water rail, kingfishers galore, sparrow hawk and an amazing rook display at dusk. 

Even though an otter had obviously taken a liking to my pike at some stage during its life I still do get a feeling of complete excitement when I see one on my fishing trips. 

The wind was biting. One of those squally windy days which Simon said "send kids and cats loopy" - it was cold too. They generally are from the east. We would be fine though as the social provides - Kelly Kettle tea, pork pie, mince pies, stollen, whisky and pickled onions.

The fishing was hard as it can be on such days, but the river did grant us a wish to see a fish or two and bring some Christmas cheer. We three, kings of the river for a day reflected on what had been a special day as we trudged across the fields to the twinkling festive lights of the village and home to warm fires and liquid cheer....