Monday, April 13, 2009

Country Walk

I took advantage of the mild spring weather and the bank holiday to take my first walk over the back roads to Portavoe for a while. I could have got some good pictures but as usual my power-hungry camera decided to run out of batteries as soon as I turned it on. I think it must have a fault. I must look into getting a replacement in the unlikely event of having some money any time soon.

Anyway, just like this time last year a mild, dry spring means you can tramp over the fields and byways without wading boots. Summer might be a different matter, so enjoy it while it lasts. The predominant colour in the hedgerows is yellow; the gorse above is a golden riot, while the dandelions dominate below. It's too still early for the white and pink flowers, such as hawthorn or wild garlic. Gorse is a traditional Easter flower; when I was a kid you found a few people collecting the flowers to boil up with hens' eggs. It dyes them an attractive golden colour for rolling down the hills. Does anyone still do that? You can make wine out of them too, if you're brave enough.

I walked over the old lane and up the backroads, along a road I haven't used for years. There were wild geese overhead and pheasants hooting in the trees. I was keeping an eye out for the local buzzards. This magnificent bird of prey was until recently a scarce sight, having been hunted close to extinction. These days, you can't fail to spot them; they seem to have overtaken the kestrel as our most common raptor and are visible circling the skies all over the north east countryside. I usually see two or three wheeling around, but this time one flew low over a field before alighting on a low tree about fifty metres behind me. Bloody lack of camera, it would have made a good picture.

I just hope the pheasant shooters and gamekeepers keep their guns away from it. I'm sure they take a few pheasants, although they mostly feed on dead carrion. Speaking of which, I found a big old dead rat squished on the road. I didn't know rats grew that big. It was rabbit sized. It'll make a tasty meal for a buzzard or carrion crow.

As I was passing the entrance to the reservoir, a man called to me about a much larger piece of carrion. He was examining something under a blackberry bush.

'Someone's dumped a dead dog here' he said.

I didn't know quite what to say. Was he asking for help?

'Oh, lovely' I replied. 'Who would you call about that? The water service?'

He didn't reply. I think he just wanted to share his discovery. He rootled around under the bush a bit more and said 'It looks like one of those Staffordshire wait it's one of those illegal ones......"

'An American pitbull?' I offered.

'Yeah, one of those.' he agreed. I asked if it had a collar but it didn't. I decided against going over for a look, so with a 'Some people huh' shrug I continued on.

People use the hedgerows as a dumping ground. It's usually just bottles and cans, but shortly after the dead dog incident I discovered another disgusting sight. Someone had left two ten litre cans of rancid cooking oil by the side of the road. They looked like they came from a fast food restaurant. They were full of dead flies. Beside them was a clear plastic bag full of something grey, squishy and indefinable. Behind the hedge, spring lambs bleated at me.

Why do people drive out to the middle of nowhere to dump their rubbish? The bottle bank is free to use, and surely there is a recycling facility somewhere for old oil. Ferals.

I passed the newly ploughed fields, still full of wood pigeon, pecking the sown grain. I can't believe the farmer doesn't cull them. Judging by the contestants on Masterchef et al, wood pigeon is a fashionable and expensive food. I should try and snaffle some. I will google 'trap wood pigeon' after I write this.

I cut over the fields and back home. The potato field was full of rotting spuds. I knew I should have picked some up a few weeks back, when the farmer was gathering them. They've gone to waste now.

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