Posted by: kathandroger | January 20, 2019

Walking.

I walk most days. Usually with the dog. The slower pace means we can see things in more detail, and although our weekly 80km bike rides cover more ground, it is not appropriate to halt the peleton just because I have glimpsed an interesting bird! Mondays means walking with the group in our village; normally for about two and a half hours, and plenty long enough for me. It means keeping up on the local village gossip, and comparing the latest aches and pains, but all that is good for my French. Last week we walked through a local park, and I was delighted to see the local provisions made for the handicapped. img_0259Placed on the basketball pitch is a parking space for the physically less able. I guess they can open the tailgate and shoot whilst sitting! Brilliant.

But most of our walking is around where we live. The woods are all encompassing, and the dog and I both delight in getting lost in the dense oak woods. If there is no sun to guide us, we could be lost for weeks, but there are usually some landmarks to guide us. This is the “white tree” in the middle of our nearest forest. img_0273I guess it is some form of fungus producing the colour, but it is certainly a good signpost and only a kilometre or so from home. The woods are usually very quiet, but our clever terrier manages to flush out the local wildlife and then chases the poor animals until they inevitably outwit her, when she returns panting and content. I vaguely remember those days!

Our walk yesterday was to our local reservoir. It was cold and frosty and the air seemed to just ever so slightly prick the skin. Beautiful. Nothing much of interest happened until Polly began barking at a bush on the far side of the lake. I wondered what it was and peeked in, expecting to see a rat. At first there was nothing, but then a strange ” tick tick” noise came from just beyond the dogs’ nose. She was getting very excited, so I peered further in and to my astonishment a big whiskered toothy face looked at both of us. The size of a very large cat, and wonderfully camouflaged in the foliage. No sooner had I thrust my big head into the bush but it bolted up over the bank. The dog followed as fast as she could; much faster than me, clambering laboriously up the steep far bank of the reservoir to see what was happening.  And when I finally arrived all that could be seen was a very wet and bemused dog standing at the waters’ edge.img_0271It was a coypu. I knew they were around, as one had been caught in a trap close by last year, but it was the first time I had had such a close encounter. They are called “ragodin” here, and “nutria” elsewhere, and lots of other much ruder names when they damage local crops and breach dams. Originally from South America, they were raised all over the world for their fur, and the first country to farm them commercially was France. I remember the problems we had with them in the UK, and they were cleared from there in the early 80’s. Here they are still widespread and often trapped, but I haven’t seen any obvious damage around us, so have decided not to tell the local gamekeeper. Incidentally, the dog won’t usually go into the water beyond her belly, and this time she was completely soaked. I wish I had seen her plunge headfirst into the freezing water in  pursuit of an animal whose swimming skills are rather better than hers!

Our walks often start by inspecting the sheep. The ewes are due to produce soon, and although they seem fat and contented, imminent delivery does not seem likely. Having said that, we will probably have some lambs this afternoon! They have a choice of several places to spend the night; a high level shelter, a low level shelter, and a nice warm cave in the hillside. So what do they do? Sleep outside in the frost.img_0261This one managed to get up to come for some feed for breakfast. The object in the foreground is an old puffball case.

The old prosthetic knees are going well after over ten years, but do ache a bit after a long walk. It will be a very sad day when pedestrian trespassing is finished, but I am already eyeing one of the new electric mountain bikes!


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