There is a patch in our garden which we’ve recently claimed as a place to take in the view, drink a coffee and daydream.
When we moved to Crockern, our soakaway had not been maintained and the neglect of untold years left a horrid mound of reeds, nettles, bramble and soggy, fetid mud. We set to work almost immediately to clear it appropriately so that clear water once again could freely flow towards a filtering reed bed below. We did nothing more, moving onto other projects.
A few summers ago, Roger returned to this spot and set about clearing it of all the overgrowth of plant life. He lined with rocks the channel which carried the overflow from our spring. To pretty things up further, we planted the edges with iris. This small water feature now serves as a drinking spot for birds, our chickens and Millie and Brock.
Making these improvements allowed our previous swamp-land to dry, a job completed. But months later, Roger was back in this spot clearing stones. I thought we were done, “Surely there are a million other projects we should be doing first.” As anyone who is being honest with herself must admit, I was wrong.
Roger next planted a hedge of alder along the fence. Grasses, Nettle, Foxglove and Bramble continued to grow, but at least you could walk through without getting a boot stuck in the muck. Once a year, Roger would strim this area.
Nearly two years after he turned his hand to this patch of land which we weren’t utilizing in any manner, I had a mad moment with the lawn mower. Working around wildflower patches, I made a clearing. Something about this location, with its hidden view from a corner of our yard, spoke to me. Previously impassable and neglected, it was inviting me to spend time here. I moved a bench from a less than ideal location, levelled it with a stone under one leg, and sat down, satisfied with this development.
The bench is situated beneath a canopy of a Hawthorn tree, shading it with dappled light throughout the day. After my morning chores are complete, I head to this bench with my cup of coffee. The view to the west, backlit by the morning sun, opens with cows and sheep lazily grazing across the hillside. Off to my right, I see the ripple of waves on the pond as a morning breeze arrives from the north. It will be cooler today. Four ducks just flew past up the river from the south, circled wide and landed in the pond for a swim. Their morning splash a dazzling display as sunlight diamonds dance off the water.
The pond is doing well. Roger has found a way to redirect the overflow from our spring into the pond at night, helping to maintain its water level during dryer weather. While the ducks come to visit, they don’t seem to be nesting on the island. However, the Grey and Pied Wagtails love its edges. All sorts of bugs skate atop the water. Just below the surface, it is teaming with tadpoles. Three swallows just dive bombed some food on the wing before returning to get mud for building their nests. Recently, we found two pregnant newts in the pond.
All around me is the happy birdsong of Blackbirds, Chaffinches, Robins and Grasshopper warblers. The Great Spotted Woodpecker is attacking a fence post in search of a morsel or two. Across the river, Herons are having a raucous party high in the pines. A Cuckoo calls in the distance. We spotted two recently in a nearby Rowan tree. But this morning, like a James Brown call and respond band, I hear a second Cuckoo answering the first. Is this back and forth an announcement of territory? David Attenborough described the female call as “bathwater gurgling down a plug hole” as she announces to her mate she is looking for a place to lay her eggs – as many as twenty – into the nests of Dunnocks or Reed Warblers. I am hearing two males. Territory claiming. Announcing their presence to females. Enjoying the sound of their own calls.
Morning is shifting into lunchtime and the warmth from the sun hits the hedges, they become alive with bugs, bees and butterflies. As Roger and I enjoy some cheese and fruit, we are treated to a display of butterflies. Red Admiral. Orange Tip. Green Veined White. Large White. Small White. Small Tortoiseshells. Peacocks. We will need to participate in The Big Butterfly Count in July.
This new spot in the garden needs a name. I’m not certain why we like to name locations. Is it our human nature to let one another where we are? But this spot is like a movie theatre with landscape and wildlife as the feature film. I won’t be seeing the new James Bond from this perch, but the action is equally exciting.
Later in the day, we watched the farmer on the hill with his two working dogs shift a flock of sheep by gently walking around them, the dogs using their strong stare and obedience to “lie down”, staying in place. Millie observes the action from our feet. Brock, focused on other matters, eats another bucket load of grass. Both content being non-working dogs. Cute little slackers.
Suddenly a buzzard flies onto the scene. A fast flap, gaining speed, and an abrupt 180 degree turn, banking to pick up a thermal. Lazily it floats above looking for prey.
This is a great place to read, write, and reflect. Sheltered from the footpath, we can enjoy the moors, unobserved. Morning coffee, mid-day lunch, evening glass of wine. No matter the time of day, I can watch without aid, spotting the badger set, across the valley, under a giant Beech tree. With my binoculars, I believe this is an active set, each entrance showing fresh signs of daily cleaning. I also spot a sloppy birds nest in another of the Beech trees. Who lives there?
As the evening sun begins to set, I see the flash of gold feathers, a Goldfinch wearing its jaunty red cap, balance on the branch of a Maple.
Here I sit. My Landscape Cinema with its quiet view of the valley, rich with sounds of breeze, birds, bugs, river, and the ever changing light. Drinking in all these small joys as a viral outbreak continues to cast a shadow across the globe.