I staggered home after that wonderful birthday meal in the early hours of the morning, refreshed by the bitter wind & brightness of the starry sky & tumbled into bed in a confusion of cats & duvet, disappointed to discover that Tony had been unable to call.
Needless to say, a few short hours later, I felt decidedly shaky when it was time to rise! A hot bath & several cups of strong, smoky Lapsang Souchong tea soon put me on the right track; as did the delicate egghell beauty of the clear winter sky, proclaiming a delightfully cold, bright day despite the portents of gloom for a murky morning of clouds & brume from the Met Office.
Suitably human again, I let the Hooligans into Parc Dyffyn field, & went for a walk with them, almost knocked over by their enthusiastic jostling as they carried out their goaty gallop, gambolling sideways with tails in the air in a state of high excitement.
Lloyd & John were working hard to clear the undergrowth at the edge of the wood in a neighbouring field, which has not had livestock on it for some years, now; it is quite incredible how quickly nature reclaims the land if it is unused. Indeed, having checked the lower part of Parc Dyffryn – which has not been grazed this year – I am concerned we have some hard work to do: sparse blackthorn saplings are already striving starkly skywards at the edge of the wood & if we do not sort them out soon, the land will prove difficult to recover. Hopefully though, the goats will enjoy stripping them as an additional, impromptu snack when we move the electric fence!
Meanwhile John told me of the remains of the baptismal bath, straddling the nearby river which rushed & gurgled below us; although much of it has long since been washed away, the steps to the bath still remain. The bath belonged to the little chapel on the hill, where the devout would be fully immersed (a lot more bracing than the River Jordan, I suspect!) & where we are soon to have the annual village carol service. It’s almost impossible to reach the bath, now; & it seems strange to think the land hereabouts is peppered with ancient trackways, drovers’ roads from when animals were walked rather than transported, to the local market. There would have been many more inns, too where the exhausted farmworkers could slake their thirst; indeed the farm on the other side of the valley, used to be one such.
John very generously offered us a consignment of ash logs he’d recently cut from a tree brought down in the high winds; appreciating that every last twig is a valuable commodity to us, here; having only the woodburners for heat. We’ll need to take the truck down to collect them, though; it’s too far & too steep for the ponies unfortunately.
Paul & Barry – the construction engineers who have been assigned to do the groundworks for the new building – turned up in the afternoon with a big, tractor-like vehicle: a Manitou, furnished complete with safety platform, so that they could carry out some tree surgery, cutting back a couple of obstructing branches from the massive beech trees overhanging the site. The whining, hornet-like buzz of the chainsaw filled the air as the blade bit into the wood; then with a massive crack, the bough tumbled abruptly to the ground. Some of the resultant logs seemed almost as big as small trees, themselves! Once this was done they hurried off to return the Manitou to its’ farming owner, presumably in time for evening feeding as Manitous are often used for moving silage into dairy cattle’s feed troughs – a lot less labour-intensive than doing it by hand!
I spent a mercifully quiet evening, curled up with the cats to read a good book in front of the fire – a tranquil end to a fragile-feeling day!