A New Year Feast
Feeling full after a fortnight of food, and with Megan happily entertaining her grandparents, we left the cottage after first-light, keen to run in the new year. The lanes were empty, save for by a small copse of oak and beech almost overrun with Red Squirrels. Startled, and caught in the act of raiding the bird-feeders of an isolated farmhouse, the squirrels dropped their booty and darted into the wood. Pushing on, Nic and I crossed an old cattle grid and followed a bridleway bordering the edge of a pine plantation, a great swathe of which had been felled, leaving a Ranger's watch tower stood forlorn in an acre of severed trunks. Then we were seen. Not by Ranger or Farmer, but by Buzzard. It took flight from a nearby tree stump, lazily beating into the air, our presence apparently an irritation rather than threat. We soon learnt why: on the stump was the carnage of a recent kill - a pheasant, its breast torn open, entrails discarded, head absent. It reminded me of the turkey I had cooked just a few days earlier. With the Buzzard now watching from a distant fence post, we crossed through fields full of Herdies, their grey coats stark against the russet red of dead bracken. The path climbed steadily, up the fell side, following the line of a collapsed wall which had once marked a bounded trackway; an echo in the landscape, still guarded by a grizzled old hawthorne, its roots marking the entrance to a warrened world of rabbit and fox. From the fell top, with its small crown of pine, we looked down into the Loweswater valley as a cold westerly blew in 2018, and I thought of how those things distant can also often be near. A boy from far away Lowes-toft, Hlothver's Homestead, watching the first sun of a new year fall on Lowes-water. Retracing our route back to the cottage we passed the the spot where the Buzzard had feasted, all sign of death now gone, save for some feathers blowing in the breeze.