Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘spring

Paradise Valley

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I’ve lived in Sutton Poyntz for six months now. A mile to the south is the sea. A mile to the east is Osmington and half a mile to the north but up a very steep hill is the “top of my mountain”. Walking my dogs around this wonderful area has fulfilled every dream that I dared hope for when I first arrived.

The Mysteries Of the East

The Mysteries Of the East

We have perhaps half a dozen standard walks that we’ve learned, each one of which can be varied with diversions, extensions or shortcuts. Usually we walk for about and hour and a half. The one delight that is always there is a succession of dramatic and quite beautiful views. I never tire of these wonderful vistas across the valley, to the sea, the Isle of Portland and beyond.

I believe that being able to see some distance is fundamentally good for your psyche. Even in the midst of our ghastly capital city on the 12th floor of a vile 1970s tower block there was some consolation to be gained from

Go West Young Man

Go West Young Man

the view. In Paradise Valley the views move me every day as they change and develop with the seasons. Quite why just looking can make me well up and seems to touch my soul, I do not know but it fascinates me that the dogs will do the same thing. We reach the peak of a hill or come round a corner and they will stand on a wall or look over a hedge – and just look.

After one false start, spring is here. In the great national blizzard we got off lightly with merely an inch or so. A fortnight later though and we had our own intense Dorset storm and we woke up to four inches and twelve hours without power.

Taking In The View

Taking In The View

Another fortnight on and the daffodils and crocuses are out. There is already some intensity in the warmth of the sun and all around gardeners are beginning to dig and to sow, to dream of runner beans and strawberries. Up on the hill they were burning the gorse. Quite why I’m not sure. Then this week they brought in a formidable machine which seemed to crawl up and down the sides of the mountain completely demolishing the gorse bushes  and leaving an apparently smooth and fresh sward of pasture.

This required immediate investigation and so the dogs and I struck out for the top. Up closer we discovered a compact bulldozer on caterpillar tracks with a vicious flail mounted on front. The driver told me that it weighs bulldozer-workingsix tons and guiding it across the slope sometimes it would slip andbulldozer slide and nearly give him a heart attack. He explained that the gorse needs to be cut back simply to keep it under control. He’s a braver man than me. Perhaps he doesn’t know that others deliberately throw themselves off the mountain underneath paragliders.

So in a deepening wamth, for the first time since winter took hold, I find time to sit. With the absence of movement, without having to worry about negotiating the hills and the fields, with time just to sit and contemplate, the valley bursts into life. It’s like sitting in a huge and magnificent amphitheatre but there’s not just the single focus of a sport or contest. Every single part of the valley throbs with activity. A family of deer watch the dogs in trepidation.carla-watches-deer1 Countless beautiful, big, brown buzzards soar and swoop. A pair of kestrels hover over the gorse bushes. The biggest rabbit warren I have ever seen, a city full of bunnies, teems with bobbing white tails. The trees are developing that slightly misty look as millions of buds begin to swell and fill. The insect population is burgeoning and heading towards a total that must surely be in the billions, surely exceeding even the number of humans across the whole of our world.

Paradise Valley is blossoming and as it blooms with it will come ever more intense beauty and experience. This, surely, is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and I live right here. For me it truly is paradise.

kestrels1

Walking The Dog 3

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Walking The Dog 3

 

The fields have been ploughed and scattered this week.   My memory tells me that the ploughing should take place in the depths of winter so that the frosts can break up the great clumps of soil but that’s not the way it’s done in Emsworth.

 

Instead the local farmer brings in contractors who arrive in huge leviathan beasts, each worth a brace of Aston Martins, that devour the stubble fields and transform them into finely graded seedbed.

 

Think of the effort of lifting one spade of compacted soil.  The plough carves down three spades deep and four spades wide with each of six blades.  The earth surrenders to its mighty force and is exposed rich red and raw.  Then a massive grader, its huge weight hauled at speed across the fields smashes the soil into powder.  Only then does the farmer drive out his John Deere, looking puny by comparison and sets it to seeding and raking.  In the space of three or four days the work is completed.

 

The new scenery brings out a burst of fresh exuberance from Capone.  He gallops across the fields, his energy enough to lift any mood.  His sheer joy at being perfectly expresses the purpose of a dog.  He and the intimate experience of a walk with my best friend is the most powerful of therapies requiring no theory or structure, just the doing of it.  Perhaps more like a meditation or prayer.

 

With age the individual senses diminish in power but I find that there is a greater discernment between them.  I hear birdsong now like I never used to.  The pleasure of the birds, the sea, the sky, the light and the breeze is all so much more intense and the unreserved, joyous companionship of my dog makes it all the more so.

 

The most extraordinary things happen every day to those of us that indulge in this most universal hobby of walking the dog.  Last week, and I kid you not, from behind an isolated cottage, flew a second world war US fighter plane at no more than 200 feet.   Breaking every civil aviation rule in the book, it sent Capone and me diving for the nearest slit trench convinced that we were its target.

 

Regularly the Chinooks fly over Chichester harbour, their massive thumping beat pulverising the air.  If you happen to be wading through a large area of eight foot tall bullrushes it is so easy to imagine the rattle of M16s and the threat of napalm descending from above.

 

 

 

 

But the real dangers that lurk here are of a more rural nature.  The most marmalade orange, malevolent cat saunters along the church wall, a half dead rat clamped in its teeth.  The nasty fat corgi, its belly dragging on the ground and while Capone ambles by it leaps up and bites him on the back of the neck!

 

Spring is accelerating towards summer now.  The grasses and nettles in the hedgerows are lush.  The trees are turning a deeper green and filling out their magnificent silhouettes but the earliest crop in Emsworth is the forest of masts that’s sprouting everywhere you look.

 

 

Peter Reynolds 14-05-08