Wednesday, 12 March 2014

There may be lambs in Tysoe and Oxhill…

…already snuggling up to their mothers against the cold north-easterly wind; but there were none to be seen, yesterday afternoon, during my walk up to the Grade II listed Philips obelisk, and around the surrounding Welcombe Hills Country Park.

Towards the end of April, last year – making the time, each day, to go on an Expotition: for the twin sakes of my physical and mental wellbeings – I decided I’d try and take some ‘cute’ lamb shots (as I tried again yesterday – but failed…): so went up into the Welcombe Hills (although that makes it sound a bit like the Himalayas, rather than the North Pole…).

One of the first sheep I came across, though, was obviously in some distress: as, having already produced one healthy offspring, her next was stillborn. She tried to coax it into life by reflexively nuzzling and licking it: but to no avail. This also meant, of course, that she was ignoring her first lamb: who was still covered in blood and mucus; but had managed to get to its feet, and was investigating its dead sibling. Luckily, the farmer was only a few hundred yards away, and dealt with it all swiftly and calmly (and, sadly, routinely) – with me as token assistant, as well as summoner. An hour later, on my return, the ewe was busily fussing over her only baby; and all was well.

When I originally uploaded it, I made no apologies for the following photograph – and therefore make none, now. It represents the daily truth and challenges… of farming, specifically; and the countryside, in general. Having worked on a farm, this should have been nothing new to me. I realized, quite quickly, though, that it had made a major impact… – which is why I remembered it so vividly, yesterday, traipsing the same route.

The climate and terrain in the country park is that little bit more exposed (even though, at just over a hundred metres, the Welcombe Hills are pretty much the same height above sea level as Main Street) – witnessed by the views afforded to and from the obelisk – which is why the lambing is that little bit later. Not too long to wait, though, if the current girth of the ewes is anything to go by; plus their gathering close to Lower Welcombe Farm, and the preparation of paddocks for newborn singletons, common twins and infrequent triplets.

Although seventy metres or so above the Avon, many of the footpaths in the hills are still clogged with deep, dank, muddy puddles (as, therefore, were my feet); the fields still saturated with our wettest winter. It will take many, many more rainless and sunny days to even begin to dry these out (although, after hosing them down, I’m hoping my trusty walking boots will be ready much sooner). Such sustained weather would also encourage lambing, of course: with a ready supply of fresh grass and soothing warmth providing the necessary sustenance and comfort for mothers and children alike. (Sheep milk is extremely tasty and nutritious, by the way: and is perfect for ice cream, as well as cheese. Lucky lambs!)

Let’s hope, therefore, that next time I’m up there – there will be Pretty Baa-Lambs for me to capture!

PS: Goodbye, Bob Crow – possibly the last of the great union leaders (and the same age as me…). A true working-class hero: wrought out of a solid block of grit; and yet still imperceptibly fragile. “I’m not going to be hanging around for ever. I won’t be one of these people like Lenin in a mausoleum.”

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