Or is it summer? Two months have passed since the last posting, eight weeks, from March snow and April rain, a lot of it more than 20 inches in the two months combined here at Fordhollow, to May sunshine. Now, on the edge of Exmoor at One thousand feet above sea level the crab apple blossom is blooming giving promise to a bumper autumn crop.IMG_1706

But no House Martins have returned from their migration. We said goodbye to our Flock (should I say Flight?), some eight broods, our best breeding success from the nests on our eaves for several years, at the end of August last year. What has interfered? The cold weather extended over Europe in March will have been a major factor leading at worst to fatalities, at best to diversion to other places although that is unlikely. Two weeks ago, there were two Martins overhead the house, but they continued on their way. So now in the second half of May the nests are unrepaired and empty. The lack of House Martins is very sad.

IMG_1694On a happier note on the bird front we have a pair of Swallows nesting in a barn and the Chiff Chaff arrived back on time. Also the huge number of tadpoles, the picture is only a tenth of them, that came from the frogspawn we rescued from the drained pond – it looked frozen and lifeless when collected – have thrived (on Little Gem lettuce leaves and fish flakes) and, in consultation with the powers that be, have been released into Wimbleball Lake; our stream flows into Wimbleball two miles away.

On the writing front I have been progressing short stories and two novel synopses entered into writing competitions. Work in progress is on my novel The Register of Joe’s Trees and I won a playwriting competition to celebrate Ninety years of the New Forest Players to be performed in July.

Here’s a Haiku written while the sparrows were nest building:

A lone feather fell

Swirling round in springtime air

Lining for a nest


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The winter months are passing, or we thought they were until March’s snow interruptions, two weekends apart.IMG_1655 Unusual snow that was so fine you didn’t feel it was amounting to much until you realised it was a full cover, accumulating then drifting in the sharp east wind. Not the worst snow we have had here in twenty-four years, but it had its moments.

In this household we are fortunate that we don’t have to go out other than walking in the field with the dog. Driving out was not possible anyway although our neighbour soon had the lane passable, essential for him as his cows have started calving in the cattle sheds.

So, these have been days of reading and writing. The former – Frederick Forsyth’s THE DECEIVER, a fascinating read set in the world of espionage, a relevant insight into current events in Salisbury, Joel Dicker’s THE BALTIMORE BOYS, not so good a tale as his first: THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR and A WHOLE LIFE by Robert Seethaler, this is what it says in the title, the self-sufficient life story of a boy into manhood whose only excursion outside his Alps valley is to fight on the Nazi Eastern front and years as a Russian prisoner until he takes a bus trip to the nearest town and back the week before he dies. It is a wonderful, almost fairy, story. Now I am reading the much missed, Helen Dunmore’s final novel BIRDCAGE WALK, said, on the cover, to be her finest novel. I’m not sure, but I may think so by the time I have finished. It conveys a wonderful sense of place and time – Bristol in the 1790s.

And writing? There are many competitions, short story and novel, open at this season. I find the challenge of these competitions a good writing boost setting deadlines and targets, even if, the work done is not submitted. I have a number of files active on the laptop, some will be submitted.

On the competition front I had success with my play: A PLACE OF REFUGE. The New Forest Players are celebrating their 90th anniversary this summer. My play, with others, will be performed on three nights at the end of July.

Back to the snow. IMG_1672It is interesting to see what tracks are left overnight. Fox, deer (probably Roe Deer), a squirrel, IMG_1675rabbits have all been evident with many birds. I like the pheasant tracks, their three-toed print leaving an arrow pointing the way they have come rather than where they are bound.


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My friendly Blackbird. In truth, he is a belligerent character, set on defending his territory as any good cock bird should. The problem is that the interloper he spies advancing onto his patch is his own reflection as the sun shines onto the mirroring French window. The dirty white marking is from his  fluttering up a foot or so from the door handle in his challenge. The photo above is part direct image and part his shadow on the glass.


I have tried to get a picture of him in his full challenge attacking the window, but his flurries are too quick and sudden for my camera. The slightest movement in the room gives me away and he is off. This is the second year he has taken post on the door handle.

The commotion he causes is a frequent interruption to my working in the next door study. It took a long time for me to realize the distraction was coming from outside and not from some bird trapped in the sitting-room. I’ve taken to long periods sitting tight in one of the chairs, camera at the ready, aiming to get the perfect picture. Of course I am ‘working’ during such periods rehearsing the current writing in progress.

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ask how many miles

had this relict run before

nature took it in

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Early morning light

reflects a woodland sparkle

spring buds will soon come



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Hokusai ZX

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We coppiced the tree

Sweet Chestnut growing too tall

Winter sleep cut down


We had to coppice the Sweet Chestnut tree as it was growing under the power lines, planted in the wrong spot almost nine years ago. 20171205_121724I had been reluctant over the past few years as it was the best growing tree of all the nine hundred we planted in our small woodland, but now it wasn’t so dominant as many of the other trees are reaching up to a good height. The tree will spring up again building out from its coppiced stool; maybe in ten years we will have to take the same action, unless some future technology has removed the power lines in favour of a future alternative method of power distribution

This picture of the growing tree (‘before’ the chainsaw) is  a fudge – it is a neighbouring Sweet Chestnut tree, not so tall and not directly under the power lines.


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