Day 16

From childhood I remember guidance from Richmal Crompton’s “William” stories! How to track deer. It is dusk and as I make my way up the track into the west wind I see two red deer hinds grazing up to my left in the field just behind the hedge. I have my binoculars, but how close can I get? With the wind in my favour I am able to get parallel to them, although one is spooked slightly by an alarmed pheasant. I am able to watch these elegant four-legged athletes more closely until something scares them into a run, (perhaps the approaching Hercules military aircraft on its third recent circuit).

Turning off the track towards the sea, I startle a hare that leaps, jumps then disappears through the hawthorn hedge to my right.

Looking down the slope towards the beach I see a dark shape swinging between the sea and the coast road. One of a pair of the marsh harriers working westward, hunting before dark. They travel low to the reeds, only occasionally lifting in the face of the breeze before dropping lower, gathering speed in the swoop to whoosh along, almost brushing the tips of the reeds as they scan for supper.

Pink footed geese lift off the saltmarsh and land just across the road on the nearest field. Fresh shoots are providing good pickings courtesy of the farmer’s winter work. A pair of the geese had settled comfortably as I walked down the hill, but they are now joined by a flight of five others.

I am about to cross back and head toward the house when I see something bounding along on the land-side of the shingle bank. It picks up another runner, as if in a relay race and they continue belting along, kicking up dust in their heels. My initial thought that these are hares is confirmed when I look through the glasses. I have seen more of these than rabbits in the past fortnight or so.

Of course the pub on the corner is closed. I can see right through empty the building to the gravel of the empty carpark. This weekend coming would have been the beginning of the Easter rush. Schools are due to close tomorrow. A large chalk board explaining the food ordering procedures still stands by the back door to the low-walled garden. It is great place to sit and watch the activities on the marshes in early summer, but these weathered garden tables will be unused for some time yet.

The evening passes quietly. Chet Baker’s “White Blues” and Sun Ra’s “Super-Sonic Jazz” provide the sound track. We share a conversation before lights out.

CLP 03/04/2020

Day 9

A quiet day. Sun. Blue sky. Birdsong.

On the dusty road to the shop there are the car-flattened, leathery remains of toads. They have tried to cross from water where they have grown from eggs, to tadpoles, to toadlets to toads. They spread out from their birth pools and eventually take singular paths.

This road must be close to a suitable, long-established pond. How many made it across? It is said their are fewer flat toads than in other years. Are there more road-aware, agile toads, or fewer available to be flattened?

The shallow roadside banks offer a mix of flowers, planted and wild. The irregularity of wild sown plants appeal. Scattered jewels for all to enjoy.

At lunch I hear that the nation has been exhorted to publicly applaud NHS staff at 20:00hrs this evening. I weep at this news, but am unsure why. No protective kit? No testing?

We text ‘good nights’. My sleep soon follows.

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CLP 26/03/2020

Day 8

Yellow, everywhere. Gorse, daffodils, primroses and by a flint wall, forthsythia, (the Easter Tree).

Along the top road the dark oaks still lack any leaf-cover, so the setting sun bounces off the gorse on the heath through the gnarled woodland. The sky a celestial blue, the display of blooms pure gold.

The pillows of colour belie the vicious nature of the spines that protect the gorse flowers. The petals unfolded from soft green pods, catch attention from a distance; the thorny branches protect these open purses from deer.

On the heath the call of chiffchaffs is added to the mixtape of song.

At the feeder in the garden word is out that stocks have been replenished and inter-species rivalries seem put aside.

A pair of goldfinches gorge themselves, accompanied by two greenfinches who cling onto adjacent perches, The greenfinches are big, muscular creatures by comparison to their multi-coloured neighbours.

Greenfinches are grim-faced with beaks like secateurs. They feed in bursts, making sure to turn and look over their shoulders for threats, or to threaten. They carry a permanent scowl. They wear simple olive green camouflage, the colour of fresh leaves, but even these dour birds sport a dash of yellow on their wings, a corporal’s single stripe.

Today is warmer. Any air out of the lightening wind seems soft on the skin. There is less need to move with such urgency; to hunch; to wrap up. Momentarily an outward, calming breath is possible when outside.

Text messages and emails are exchanged with friends and family as acceptance of abnormality settles on us, but there is a sense of dread stalking the strong, spring shadows.

Our children, (under-equipped, untested), assume their hospital duties with stoicism. They see the consequences of infection; set up ventilators; switch them off.

Our conversation edges along a cliff ledge. Untethered due to distance as we are, I offer my hand. You concentrate determinedly on the positioning of your feet.

By bedtime Venus, low in the west, is dressed in her brilliant white best.

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CLP 26/03/2020

Day 3

Early to the heath accompanied by birds in full song. A red kite hangs above the oak trees trying to get a fix on breakfast despite the gusting northerly.

Three other birds of prey wheel, hover, patrol the ridge.

From the still sodden fields curlews agitated cries cut through melodies of dunnocks and robins; contrast with the squeaky rhythm of great tits welcoming spring.

A Muntjac deer with its back legs caught in the fence wire, hangs head down, front legs limp, its rear torn open by a fox, crimson.

On the way back down the lane my attention is held by a movement on the verge. I see a mouse, its tiny marble-black eyes glint from beneath celandine leaves. We spend moments staring at each other. The mouse loses interest first and scrambles off leaving wavering plants in its wake.

By evening the bitter wind from the north sweeps up the hill from the sea, over the head of a red deer hind with her fawn nibbling at crumbs left by goats from their plastic bucket.

The spectacular yellow blooms of gorse purses are open for business. A bumble bee passes loudly, yet unseen.

I go to bed.

“Night night”

“Good night, dear friend.”

It has been Friday.

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CLP  20/03/2020

 

Witches’ Butter

Soapy golden nugget

Magicked up during recent rain

Fallen from the wounded oak

Lying in the lane

Wondrous shiny gift

Is anybody watching?

Dare I pick it up?

Take it to the kitchen

Slice it into soup?

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n.b. Tremella Mesenterica is edible. A fungus that feeds on other fungi that are working on dying limbs of deciduous trees. It takes on its burnished, rubbery appearance when it swells in periods of regular rain. Yes, widely found in The British Isles.

This fungi has a range of medicinal properties attributed to it. Modern technological wizardry means you can buy it online and have it delivered in a jar to your home without the bother of seeking it out on injured trees, or the joy of discovering it for yourself when out walking.

This post is not intended to be an endorsement of any particular brand of witches’ butter from any specific coven.

When picking up fungi found on a walk do check carefully that you know what it is before handling, or indeed eating it. If you get it wrong it may take more than witchcraft to revive you – if revival is at all possible.

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CLP 11/12/2019