Poor Doris

Doris

Back in Manchester one of my many grumbles was about having to get in the car to walk the dogs. In the nearby local park our badly-behaved lurchers mostly stayed on the lead, so as not to have them run and bark at other dogs, raid rubbish bins, chase cats, kill pigeons and so on.

The field at the end of our road here in Heckington seemed ideal: space for Doris to run around while elderly, three-legged Bob pottered more slowly. But since the dog field became the sheep field, poor Doris is having all her walks on the lead.

Though no spring chicken herself, she has had a whole new lease of life on arriving in the country. The scents of foxes, muntjac deer and other wildlife are obviously exciting beyond anything back in Chorlton. Five times now, in different places, she has sprinted off over several fields and stayed away for ages (see Spot the Dog and No longer the dog field). Too much anxiety, not knowing where she is, if she’s run onto a road or into a farm, so until the sheep field is free again, she’s on the lead.

At least here we have a garden for her to run around in. But still, poor Doris; it’s a dog’s life!

On my bike

River Slea

Weather cold, grey, grim; though they are promising spring by the weekend. Decided I must get out more, despite the chill.

The direct route to Sleaford, our nearest town, is along the very busy, very cyclist-unfriendly A17. So I go by the quiet, pretty back roads, a longer way round. It’s nice and flat, of course, but I’m not very fit and the seven or eight miles feels like plenty. So, after pottering around town, my bike and I go home to Heckington on the lovely train.

Above is a picture of the River Slea, not far from Cogglesford Water Mill (another working mill) where I get a cup of tea and a book of Lincolnshire Cycle Routes called On Your Bike!

In the week of Margaret Thatcher’s death, how can I not be reminded of her friend Tebbit’s famous exhortation to the nation’s unemployed? Echoing across the years, I hear that same cruelty and brisk scorn that ring through our politicians’ pronouncements about poverty today.

I arrive home glowing from my exercise and musing on our divided, unequal, materialistic world. A hapless courgette from today’s vegetable box becomes a focus for my frustration (wastefulness of transporting something mostly water around the world etc etc).

The courgette meanwhile gets on with doing what courgettes do best; it is delicious in an omelette, with tasty chard and potatoes.

p.s. It’s easy here to buy good, locally-grown vegetables, but the ones we get in the weekly box from Woodlands Organic Farm are particularly nice, maybe even as tasty as if we had picked them from our own garden. Highly recommended.

Scenes from a country churchyard

Behind Walcot church

Just another couple of pictures of a church and churchyard, this time from the small village of Walcot, taken last Friday when I took a scenic route home from my pottery class (see A lumpy thing but mine own about the pottery, or Landmarks in a flat country for a previous mention of Walcot).

I don’t know how to express why these scenes make my heart sing. They are ordinarily, quietly rural, but there is something wonderful to me in the way that you can just drive, or indeed walk or cycle, through village after village like this, with a church, a farm or two and a few other houses. They seem to me like a picture of an England that perhaps many of us, in most of the country, don’t believe exists any more. It is not an idyll of untouched natural beauty, but a working landscape, with people labouring hard behind the apparent peacefulness. And probably here, as elsewhere in the country, fewer and fewer people find it viable to make a living from the land.

So perhaps it can’t last, but I hope it can.

Friday was a great day all round because I had my first go on the potters wheel, something I haven’t tried for decades. I made four thick little pots and had a brilliant time – could have sat there at the wheel for hours.

Walcot church

St Andrews Church, Heckington

A large town church in a village, in fact one of the dozen or so grandest churches in Lincolnshire.*

I’ve mentioned our village church in passing: the bell-ringing on a Tuesday night, a landmark to guide me home from a walk, the presence of the medieval world in our modern one, and so on. So yesterday, in the sunshine, I took a few photos of it to put up here.

St Andrews was built in the fourteenth century and I’d heard before arriving here that it is an important church (in this region of many fine churches). In particular people write about, and take pictures of the stone carvings both on the outside and inside the building.

If you like church architecture and decoration, there are many more images, by better photographers than I, to be found on the web. Have a look on the Geograph website, a fun place to visit if you don’t know it (search for Heckington or grid square TF1444).

I love living so close to this ancient building. I love it being open so much of the time and I love the second-hand bookstall inside.

And I’m glad I took the photos yesterday. Today there is no sun again, only the punishing, bitter cold.

* from Lincolnshire by Nikolaus Pevsner, John Harris, Nicholas Antram (2002)

Waiting for spring

The sun has been shining for the past couple of days, but it is still very cold. The equinox has been and gone and British Summer Time is with us. We have the light but not the warmth; this spring is too long coming.

Daughter and grandbabies have been here for a few days. Pictures here are from a walk after seeing them off on the train yesterday. I tried a new route out of the village, via a footpath which implausibly crosses the busy A17 and then over to Star Fen. The winter colouring is still beautiful – bare black branches against a duck-egg-blue sky – but we need more green, more life, more seeds sown and food growing.

Heading back to Heckington down Littleworth Drove, I passed the field where I saw some particularly fetching sheep in winter stubble on my last walk up here (see A walk on Star Fen). I felt sad, as I do listening to the lambs bleating from the dog field, reminded of all the sheep and lambs dead in snowdrifts on hill-farms around the country.

There has been some good coverage of the crisis facing British farmers (see this recent Observer article), but I can’t help feeling that farming stories in the mainstream papers often read like those on disasters happening to other people in a far off place. Yesterday the snowstorms and the dead lambs were front page news, being hailed as the worst disaster to hit hill farmers in 60 years; I have a slight sense of shock when I cannot find a single paragraph on them in this morning’s paper.

But in the meantime, the sun is out and along with farmers and gardeners all over the country I am crossing my fingers that it stays out. Spring: bring it on, please.