Friday, 24 April 2015

A short dog walk

I live in North Yorkshire on the southern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. I live outside of a town, on a country lane. It's very rural which is nice. The farm across the road used to be home to a dairy herd, but foot and mouth ruined that, so now it's all arable. Today's little stroll with the dog took me around the edge of a field of oil-seed rape which seems to be flowering early this year. The field edges are teeming with wild flowers including dog's mercury, forget-me-nots, mustard cress and others which I don't know the names of; and the hedgerows are full of buckthorn blossom (I will make sloe gin this year!) with the hawthorn yet to flower. In the sunshine, various butterflies were courting.

On one side of the field, under a fallen tree there is a burrow and for some time I had wondered who lived there. I had assumed rabbits, but a more logical think says this cannot be the case as there are no droppings around the holes which rabbits would normally leave. There are also no piles of used bedding which can be indicative of badgers. Today however, I found out the identity of the occupants, it's a fox den. Sadly (or not, depending on your view point) there was a dead fox cub on the ground on top of the burrow. It looked quite fresh but was too far into the branches to investigate further.

A little further on I found evidence of predators in the form of damaged pheasant eggs. It could be the nearby foxes, or maybe even crows as there are quite a few locally. The area is managed by a local keeper and the left over birds from last year are looking quite splendid and will be preparing to nest. They occasionally manage to raise a few babies, but are less successful that you'd imagine!

Could I write a 'countryside interest' blog?

...and would it need to be separate to this which is essentially a running blog?
And how does one promote such a thing? Is there not enough of them already I wonder?
This has been triggered by a conversation with my boss while travelling around clients in Scotland and Northumberland recently. There's a lot of time to talk and mull over things when you spend three days in the car!

While away we stayed in some nice hotels and got very well fed! First off was The Angus in Blairgowrie. We had the three course set menu which was good and in the morning I had time for a quick swim in the pool before a big cooked breakfast.

The next night was spent at Brandy Bank on the A68. The boss has used this place for years, and it's easy to see why. Michael the proprietor is very attentive and the rooms clean and comfy- as one would expect. But the highlight is dinner! He makes as much as he can from scratch and this time we were treated to smoked haddock risotto, lamb cutlets and apple crumble for pudding. I don't really like lamb so he did me pork and apple burgers from his local butcher instead and they were lovely. We whiled away the evening chatting to a pair of hikers from Canada who were over doing St. Oswalds Way.

We saw a few bits of interesting wildlife, eider ducks at Seahouses amongst the usual gulls. Oyster catchers, curlew and lapwings around Brechin and back near Hexham scores of swallows. I wondered if the swallows had arrived at home yet, they normally make an appearance between the 19th and 21st April. My first chance to look for them was on the 23rd and I paused between chores to scan the sky and sure enough there they were, wheeling and chattering overhead.

I love this time of year, the weather has been very kind and I had my breakfast outside on the patio surrounded by the busyness of nature. The garden was full of the voices of birds and the distant clatter of tractors working the fields.

Last night we ate at the Crab & Lobster, a very posh local restaurant. I had mussels followed by duck. For a posh place, the portions are huge, I was full after my starter! I was a little surprised that they didn't ask how I'd like my duck to be cooked and it arrived rare, that's fine for me but I know plenty of people who don't like it that way. We were all too full for a pudding, but fancied something sweet, so we thought we would order the assiete of desserts and share them so we each just had a spoonful or two. Well, we didn't get 3-4 little bits of pudding, no, we got 8 mini puddings!! Oh my! Good job we hadn't ordered one each!! There was hazelnut praline, trifle, apple strudel, sticky toffee pudding, berry cake, sorbet, crème brulee and some fancy pastry thing. Between us we managed to finish it! We were pleased we hadn't ordered individual puddings as we saw the size of the portions delivered to the couple behind us, and they were massive. I declined a coffee, but still got a truffle and a piece of biscotti.
Unfortunately, I was ill in the night, I think due to sheer quantity of food rather than there being anything wrong with it. I don't feel poorly now but I am very tired and have a dehydration headache. Yuk. I have eaten a lot recently (see above re the client trip) and my body said enough. Well it is a temple don't you know!