Wandering and Weeding

Why, on a gloriously sunny Easter Monday, did I find myself on all fours removing exploding weeds from the path at the side of the cottage? Whose idea was this? Well, it seemed like a good idea first thing this morning, before the real warmth of the sun hit my back.

I had risen early and thrown back the gingham curtains only to reveal a very welcome sunny morning and a forty strong gathering of red deer in the field beyond. The morning sun turned their coats to a stunning orangey-ginger colour and they shone like new copper coloured pennies. A couple of the stags still had their antlers but not for much longer, I should think.

So, I’m up, chores completed, bird table replenished and feeders filled, I had the whole day in front of me. I sat with yet another cup of tea and a toasted, cherry hot cross bun at the kitchen window, pondering my day.  I normally try to have a ‘job of the day’ so that I can fit everything in but when the weather turns up trumps, plans have to be altered for there are so many good weather jobs to be done…weeding being one of them.  So, there I was, on my hands and knees, pulling out my unwanted intruders.  But as the sun grew warmer I’d felt the need to remove a layer of clothing and thought that today I’d let the weeds feel free to explode. Free!  just like me because I was taking myself off for a wander!

Half a mile away in each direction you can find my nearest neighbours. Here, at the cottage, I am surrounded by my neighbours’ land made up of woodland and fields that dip into stunningly beautiful coombes and valleys. I find myself very privileged to have the run of their land, I am free to wander at my leisure, to enjoy the pathways and wildlife thereon. Across the way, down the lane, is a solid five bar gate and its over the gate that I headed. I have supplies with me: chocolate, mints and an apple. Enough to keep me going as I’m only out for a wander.

My walk takes me over two pasture fields to start with, which are inhabited by ewes and their new lambs. The lambs are so new that a few are still wrinkly around the legs and haven’t completely found their feet yet. The older ones seem to enjoy a game of jumping up onto mum’s back whilst she’s trying to have a nap or cavorting and gambolling about with their mates. I enjoy hearing the ewes and lambs calling to each other throughout the day and into the night. Sounds of the countryside – another simple pleasure.

I have a habit of stopping to lean on gates. To take in the scene before me, because so much is missed if you don’t stop awhile and look. I look, up, over, around and always down. I’ve not walked very far and I’ve already clocked that the warmth of the sun over the last days has encouraged the primroses to adorn the ancient Exmoor banks and hedgerows. These pretty flowers are the most delicate shade of lemon and they are in clumps, everywhere! Keeping them company and not really bothering where they grow, are brightly coloured, yellow celandine – not as much in abundance but still making their presence felt. The snowdrops, in the green now, are gone for another year.

Perched on a leafless beech tree is a kestrel who’s always around this particular spot. I could watch him for a while flying from tree to fence post and back again. He uses the fields and various resting points to his advantage, Over the valley and looking towards moorland, I spot a small herd of deer. They are all hinds and they’re resting in a corner of a sloping field, enjoying the sun and at peace. One remains standing, grazing, but keeping an ear open for any danger, I guess.

My path takes me down a steep field and I keep to the edge out of respect to the farmers who allow me to walk their land. Over a stile at the end and I’m in sparse woodland where the deer have carved out pathways along the fence and through the trees. The path is dotted with muddy puddles and shaded from the sun but I plough on through as quietly as I can, looking about me as I go. Coming out into another field at the bottom of the slope I pass a large rabbit warren. It’s in use as there are droppings nearby and the earth is freshly dug around the main entrance, which is huge. In the summer most of this area is covered in lush, green ferns and you’d be hard pressed to locate the rabbits’ hideaway if you didn’t know where it was to. Badgers roam this field too. Their sett is not too far from the rabbit residence but is safely tucked  away in the wood, on the other side of the fence. Their trails are clearly marked by the flattened grass and earth.

I stop here for a while to eat my apple and chocolate – there’s another gate to lean on, so why not? Usually, down here, I’d be able to watch the buzzards as they call to one another. They’re here every year and use two old beech trees as cover. They are able to soar high above this beautiful valley and spacious woodland but also have the benefit of open grassland too.

Snack finished and I’m on my way again. Climbing the gate I find myself back in the woodland.  It’s easy to walk quietly here on the carpet of soggy leaves and pine needles. I stand and look about me as I’m taking a pathway that skirts a grassy field protected by beech hedges and trees. After a few minutes of walking I spy in the field to my right  several red deer. They were sitting down but two are now on their feet, noses in the air but they don’t bark their warning sound which, no matter how many times I hear it, scares the pants off me for it is so loud! Out here in the woodland it’s even worse for if the deer see you before you see them, their bark is quite unexpected and I have been known to leave the floor at the sound of it.

I really don’t want to disturb them but would love to watch them awhile so I crouch down behind a tree and try not to move. They are fully aware that I’m watching them as the two remain standing, keeping watch, but they’re relaxed enough now to put  their heads down and graze… I peep out from my hiding place and watch these beautiful creatures for a while, taking in the sunshine, secluded and safe. To me, it’s Exmoor at its finest and I’m so lucky to be able to witness such an idyllic scene.

Off once again andimage leaving the deer behind me, I walk on. I can hear the river from here but can’t see it. However, I’m not going in that direction today and instead quietly pick my way over lush, damp, mossy humps, listening to birdsong as I go. I’m back on another path which will take me home in a circular fashion via the woods. Following a soggy path caked with mud puddles, I’m making my way uphill homeward bound. It’s a path, again, used by the deer and along here is a wallow where the deer come to bathe in the mud. The sun doesn’t shine down through the canopy of trees so much and the wallow keeps wet and damp for many months of the year. It’s well used and the deer slots are of differing sizes around it. I’m in a part of the woods where the deer are always seen. They will come into the fields at any time of day, leaping over the fence from a standing position with immense grace.

A couple more gates to go and the cottage will be in sight. More pasture land takes me home. Two more fields flanked on one side by blackberries, the stems of which will reach out and cover the hedgerows throughout summer. Juicy fruits harvested in September will make pies, crumbles and jams to be stored for treats during the winter months. What glories to look forward to!

My wander has taken two hours out of the morning…but what better way to spend time than out in the open, sharing the delights of our countryside? So, the weeding stills awaits me but it can wait ten minutes more, surely, whilst I make myself a chai latte and sit on my bench contemplating just how much exploding the weeds have done in my absence. 🙂

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