Tag Archives: sheep

HOLY OF HOLIES

Photo0935

The Holy of Holies refers of course to the innermost chamber of the Temple in Jerusalem – and before that in the tent that went through the desert with the Israelites. Blake reminded us that God is present in a grain of sand; here is Chesterton meeting him on a Spring morning. These cowslips are growing in pastureland, where sheep will safely graze later in the year. We were told that the farmer seeded the field with wild flowers. Thank you to him!

‘Elder father, though thine eyes
Shine with hoary mysteries,
Canst thou tell what in the heart
Of a cowslip blossom lies?’

 

‘Smaller than all lives that be,
Secret as the deepest sea,
Stands a little house of seeds,
Like an elfin’s granary,

‘Speller of the stones and weeds,
Skilled in Nature’s crafts and creeds,
Tell me what is in the heart
Of the smallest of the seeds.’

‘God Almighty, and with Him
Cherubim and Seraphim,
Filling all eternity—
Adonai Elohim.’

Advertisements

My Last School Trip – 8 – Climb Every Mountain

 

Climb Every Mountain by Oliver Cheeseman

Part of me never thought I would get to the top of a real mountain, but I did! It was all down, or up, to team work and modern wheelchair technology.

I was a bit unsure about getting into the ATW, or All Terrain Wheelchair, that Mr Kipling produced at the Mountain Centre. It had fat tyres, a balloon wheel bogey at the front, rear suspension, a low seat and extending push bars. Mr Kipling said it was very stable. I hoped he was right.

It was hard work with those tyres and I needed plenty of help. Mr Cockle pushed me first, but not for long. He went rather fast and I was quite shaken, even with the suspension. I think he was showing off a bit in front of the girls.

Nerys took over, helping me on the rough parts of the track. We passed a lot of sheep and lambs. l’d never seen them so close before. The mothers took great care and called to their babies when we went by. Nerys called them woolly maggots, because they ruined the countryside. She showed me what looked like abandoned gardens or fields, with low walls and thorn bushes scattered among them. ‘Ruined by sheep,’ she said. ‘No hedges left hardly. ‘

Mr Turnstone began reciting poetry again as we came to a closed up cottage:

Once again I see

These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines

Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,

Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke

Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!

Then it began to get steeper and rockier. The ATW had lashing points so people could pull with ropes or hang on to stop me from rolling away downhill.  It got really tough once we got above the trees. I was glad to see that Ellis had big chocks slung round his neck, which he whipped under my wheels, whenever we stopped. Brakes don’t always work so well when wheels get muddy, and some of the slopes were steep; I began to worry about the chair tipping over backwards, even though it had a very low centre of gravity.

The path got narrower and narrower and harder to get along. Sometimes I was pulled up backwards. Sometimes I was carried high on people’s shoulders, using the poles. The views were terrific but the views of my face on Mr Turnstone’s video are terrified!

Then we turned onto a rocky ridge that seemed to go on for ever, with a long drop to either side. The going was not so bad on the grass. I had the Hogbens pushing and pulling and Scruffy taking a rest on my knees. Then, as it got steeper, everyone seemed to be helping to push, pull, or balance the ATW, using ropes, bars and any corner they could lay hands on.  Everyone but Mr Cockle, who was shouting orders and advice from the rear. Stacey got filthy, turning one wheel with her bare hands. I ruined two pairs of gloves.

At the top everyone was exhausted, including me. “Even though you’ve been sitting down for the last few hours,” said Mr Turnstone. But next thing everyone was standing, jumping, dancing, with their arms round each other.

“Come on Dazza, let’s get him up,” said Dean, and the next I knew the two of them  were lifting me out of the chair and I was standing on top of the world with Scruffy round  my neck.

You get a lovely view from the top of Penyfan, or as Mr Turnstone says, at least when it’s not raining or misty. The lake looked tiny, and the people beside it were like ants. The hills and mountains around us were all colours of green and brown.

On the way down we stopped at a granite column to have a drink. Mr Turnstone said he wanted us to look all around and listen. He said it would make sense of the awful homework Miss Treacy had set. “Don’t spoil it, Sir,” said Gemma.

I don’t think he did. This is what he read:

. . .  here I stand, not only with the sense

Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts

That in this moment there is life and food

For future years. And so I dare to hope,

Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first

I came among these hills; when like a roe

I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides

Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,

Wherever nature led: more like a man

Flying from something that he dreads, than one

Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then

(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,

And their glad animal movements all gone by)

To me was all in all. – I cannot paint

What then I was. The sounding cataract

Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,

The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,

Their colours and their forms, were then to me

An appetite; a feeling and a love,

That had no need of a remoter charm,

By thought supplied, nor any interest

Unborrowed from the eye.

Mr T gets carried away sometimes. I’ve known the head slam his classroom door when he was reading Shakespeare to us, along with the rest of the corridor, but there were no doors up here, and no-one to complain, except the PE teachers.

I wasn’t the only one who had an appetite. Gemma said she had one and Mr Turnstone laughed and said she should enjoy the coarser pleasures of her girlish days while she could and Gemma blushed and said he was horrible. We all had chocolate and juice. “Don’t leave your paper about”, shouted Mr Cockle, and at that moment the wind grabbed Mrs Cockle’s empty carrier bag and lifted it over our heads. Nothing to be done about it, but Dean raised a cheer from us all.

Help! On the way down Mr Turnstone said he was tempted to let me roll but he’d best hang on for dear life. “Thanks!” I said. “It’s not your life I’m worried about,” he said, “it’s mine. I promised your dad I’d bring you back in one piece. He might get cross if I don’t. And think of all the paperwork! Anyway, I believe Mr Cockle has a date with a sounding cataract.”

I think the climb was worth it, even if we were all exhausted at the top, except Mr Cockle. He told us he had to do a running risk assessment and scout the best route for the last stretch to the summit, which is why he had plenty of breath to shout at everyone else. Now he dashed off ready to drive the Land Rover up to the stream crossing point.

My Last School Trip – 7 – Mixed Messages

Text Message sent from

Mrs Angela Oxenden’s mobile phone,

 Saturday evening.

HI MAY. YR MOMS PHONE BUST. DAZ TOOK SCRUF 2 WALES. ALL OK.

CU JASON.

Text message sent by May Hogben,

Saturday evening.

DARREN HAV U GOT SCRUFFY? I’LL KILL U. LUV U. MUM.

That night Darren slept soundly in the boys’ dormitory, with its polished floor boards and thick red curtains, matching the covers on the well-sprung, comfortable beds. Scruffy bedded down happily with Shep in his kennel next to Mrs Kipling’s hen house. I, Will Turnstone, gave careful consideration to my pupils’ welfare before saying my prayers and switching off the electric light.

Sunday: higher things.

I go to church on Sundays, so at Saturday supper I had offered to take any volunteers to Brecon Cathedral with me next morning, after a quick bowl of cereal. We would meet the rest of the group back at the centre, then go on to climb Pen-y-fan, the highest mountain in South Wales. The idea was what Bob Kipling called a pleasant Sunday stroll to get into the swing of things. I didn’t know if anyone would join me, but Darren and Dean were not a total surprise, though they usually spend their Sundays playing football or fishing. Stacey came too. Scruffy as well, of course; no-one had said he couldn’t go to Brecon, though I insisted he stayed in the minibus during the service. We parked under the trees to keep him cool.

“Sing aloud, loud, loud,” warbled Stacey, as we walked Scruffy down to the river, “why is it you don’t mind singing it here, but no-one can open their mouths in assembly?”

“Who wants to be in assembly,” I answered, “with Mrs Hooke and her fiddlers three? Did you bring your violin? You might pick up a penny or two busking in Hay.” Stacey did not know how to answer that. She certainly would never be seen busking in Cossington, and I don’t think her Dad would stand for it either.

But we were in Wales. Thankfully, Welsh Sundays are not what they used to be, so we managed to find a second breakfast in town. By the time we’d finished, Bob Kipling was fussing at me down the mobile phone.

 

Text message sent by Bob Kipling,

Sunday morning.

WILL, WHERE R U? 2 L8 2 COM BAC HERE.  MAKE 4 RENDEZVOUS

@ MNTN CAR PARK. DONT B L8 THERE.

 

Text message sent by Stacey Oxenden

for Will Turnstone (who was driving)

Sunday morning

WE’RE COMING, WE’RE COMING.

DON’T 4GET ROPES & SANDWICHES. WT

To the Mountain

The four of us were singing when we reached the car park at the foot of the mountain, but, Charlie Cockle was cross, Celia Cockle was cross, Sergeant Major (I don’t think) Kipling was cross. They’d counted on Scruffy being left behind with Shep. Darren, as ever, was riding his luck or maybe mine. I think they blamed me for Scruffy being there, but no-one had said Scruffy couldn’t go to Brecon, and Turnstone is an honourable man. Charlie wanted to leave Scruffy in the minibus, but Darren and Stacey both said that that would be cruel. The inside of the bus could get overheated which would be bad for Scruffy.  Darren went very quiet when Charlie said he should have thought of the dog’s health yesterday, before giving him the sleeping pill, but Scruffy was allowed to walk up the mountain with us.

“First sign of him running off to chase sheep, he goes on the lead, boy,” barked Mr. Kipling, “and you get on the next train home, even if you have to sleep on your Gran’s floor.”

Charlie and the Sergeant Major were soon too busy to pay much attention to Scruffy. Here at the bottom of the mountain they could take turns showing off their muscle power pushing Ollie up the track in what they called the ATW.  Was Stacey being totally serious when she said, “Sir, you must be strong?” Charlie thought she was: “You’ll see Stacey, it’ll take more than one of those unfit youths to push him.”

 

All this meant that Scruffy could peacefully walk to heel, not on his lead, right past hundreds of sheep & lambs. He seemed quite at his ease, nose and ears up, tail held high. Bob Kipling, taking a break from pushing, was a reluctant admirer.

Your Company Was Much Appreciated

 

 

 

‘I’m looking forward to your blog about today’, said Mrs Turnstone, so I’d best get on and write it.

Mrs T’s walking club take turns to offer their colleagues a country ramble. Hers is due in a fortnight, which means taking a trial run to be sure it’s suitable. This was a walk we had followed one summer’s day when Carine Sorgho was with us, to give her a taste of the long-settled English countryside to take back to France and Burkina Faso. But November is not July, and would I go with Mrs T to check it would be passable in winter. ‘Your company would be much appreciated’ is one of her three-line whips, so I made sure my waterproofs were handy.

When I got up it was raining. It was raining when Mrs T left her bed, raining when we set out, but the wipers had just stopped when we reached the car park at Doddington Church. They once had the stone upon which John the Baptist’s head was severed, though it was lost hundreds of years ago. We did not step inside as the builders were at work, but sent a greeting to the Prophet and his Cousin from across the churchyard, praying that the rain, having ceased, would stay away. It did for as long as we were walking, starting again as we reached the car at the walk’s end. We even saw the sun, twice, if fleetingly.

Off we went through woods and along muddy paths till we reached a succession of old country houses with fantastically trimmed topiary peering over their walls. Somewhere on the way we found an apple orchard where we rescued windfalls, pollinators, undersized and left-behind fruit, till pockets bulged and could take no more. And so to the cherry orchards.walksheep1

The oldest of these are still run the old fashioned way, with tall standard trees branching from above head height, so that ladders are needed to harvest them – and much more labour than modern trees. At this time of year these orchards are undergrazed by sheep, who ignored us and got on with their work of mowing and fertilizing the sward.

The path led uphill and down, offering views across downs and valleys, steaming up mist in the gentle warmth. We found ourselves following hedges, including one recently planted, with hawthorn and wild rose most prominent. That was good to see.

Finally we came back to Doddington and to Doughty’s, the village butchers’ shop, (see http://swdoughty.co.uk/  ) which we visit whenever we are passing. ‘I know where every beast comes from: the lamb is from just up the road, the beef from a mile away.’

Doughty’s homemade pork and leek sausages, served with mashed potatoes and a rich onion and scrumped apple gravy, with a local red cabbage on the side; we felt we’d earned a good dinner.

Some of the less presentable apples were chopped up small as the starting point for this year’s mincemeat, ready for the Christmas season. As NAIB2 would tell you, mincemeat should be made on All Saints’ Day, but we were travelling then.

Another gift of a day.

The Dogs of Wensleydale

 IMGP4692

Mrs Turnstone’s friends had gathered in Wensleydale so we accepted their invitation to join them. Yorkshire has a different palette of green to Kent, and hills that rise higher and steeper than the gentle Downs. Though we do have the White Cliffs and the Devil’s Punchbowl… but this is about Yorkshire!

As we were walking around Kettlewell, a shepherd and his dog roared by on a quad bike, the collie braced to keep his balance behind his master, but clearly enjoying his high speed ride. The next day we saw them from a distance, out on the hill, hard at work rounding up this flock. The black and white collie is running along the dry stone wall, centre right of the picture, and once again giving every impression of enjoying himself.

These black and white dogs were in every farmyard and on almost every street corner in the small towns in the Dale. We met another in York who appeared to be quite overwhelmed by all the different people going through the market place, as well as the many new smells; he did not know where to look or smell first and had that ‘mad collie’ look about his eyes that means his humans will have their work cut out keeping up with him. Perhaps he would have been happier out on the hill, rounding up sheep, but if he’d been let off the lead in town he would have been herding all the humans towards the Yorkshire Sausage Shop in The Shambles nearby. Wild boar pie, Shep? Yes, please!

Si vis pacem pare hortum

willow

shoots aiming for the sky from a fallen willow.

Higher and further into Wales: from Laugharne to the Brecon Beacons, to stop and stare and absorb the tranquillity at a friend’s place: marjoram with meadowsweet; the herb colonising the paths above the damp land, where meadowsweet shelters the pheasant family from kite and buzzard if not weasel or cat.

Tranquillity has been carefully nurtured: planting a tree here, a day lily there, giving the Mermaid rose room to spread herself into the trees around.

Robert Frost wrote of good fences, and wondered

“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

                                                          What I was walling in or walling out,

                                                          And to whom I was like to give offence.

Here, sometimes, there are Hereford cows, though this day the fence and hedge were holding back a mixed flock of sheep – the valley sheep are fatter, and would be fatter still were they able to chew the cud on spinach, beans and garden flowers. Not maintaining this fence would cause offence and distress. Distress and offence had already been caused in February.

Our friend’s Eastern boundary once had a hedge and ditch on the other side of the line. A good hedge provides a home for insects, birds and small mammals; its roots protect the soil on either side from being washed away. The old hedge had been grubbed up, the ditch levelled, in the name of efficiency, today’s acceptable euphemism for laziness and greed. Cropped to the edge with spring-sown maize, year upon year, when the late winter storms came nothing could hold the top layer of soil from being scoured, and a stream formed around the little willow, undermining it. This tree was part of the informal hedging our friend had planted below the field edge, six feet on her side of the fence.

Now the willow lay across the bench that commands a view across lawns, trees, bushes and beds, bulbs in season, and always the birds. This tree had grown from an osier thrust into the ground and now had half a dozen stems, twelve feet tall and more. Only one was near vertical, the one that before the landslide had leant towards the field. I set myself to rescue the bench by cutting back each leaning trunk to a vigorous vertical shoot while leaving that one upright trunk to point the way.

There were plenty of shoots to choose from, some of them six feet high already. Unchecked, the weight of this vegetation would have brought the willow right down onto the bench and maybe have broken it.

I would have enjoyed having Dermot with me, with his love of trees and quirky insights, but had to commune with myself and Whoever might be listening. And I had to listen to the tree: where do you want to grow? How can I get you back to a pleasing shape? And my apologies for tearing a strip off your bark, misjudging that first cut across the front of the stem.

Squirrels had barked the tree before me: did they use it as a painkiller? A few days later, Dermot didn’t think so; he says they’ll go for any bark, just to be destructive. Dermot doesn’t like squirrels.

Job done as the ladies returned from the village; logs, pea-sticks and rubbish sorted. ‘Wait’, our friend said, as the barrow was laden with bonfire fodder. She took a handful of vigorous twigs and thrust them into the soil nearby. ‘You never know!’

I wonder: the next time we come, perhaps they will be six feet and we will know they have taken.