On Sunday…(Heavy downpours)…we visit Port Isaac in Cornwall. Robert’s aunt, Deidre, is staying with us and we take the opportunity to walk one of our favourite stretches of coast. We are lucky, a narrow window of glorious weather paints the sea and cliffs in vivid colours.
On Monday…(Torrential rain and winds for twenty-four hours)…we bring the sheep up from the river meadows in torrential, driving rain – just in time, the river burst its banks.
On Tuesday…(Prolonged hammering showers – interspersed with drizzle)…I move the cattle – they are poaching the land. They have spent the night in the shelter of Primrose grove (a tiny wooded area at one end of ‘Five Acres’ full of primroses in the spring and penny buns in the autumn): placing their calves in the centre the cows had arranged themselves around the outside. I was intrigued – I’ve never seen them do this before. They created their own mini covered yard, using their bulk and body heat to protect their calves from the bucketing rain.
On Wednesday…(Rain, heavy, – all day and night)...we move the young stock (they are grazing my rented land a couple of miles away). There’s a river flowing down the green lane flooding the area around their water trough. We take the trailer over and make ready for an early Thursday morning start, taking a bullock into slaughter. Never easy to move and load animals in the pouring rain, we want to have everything in place in case of disasters.
On Thursday morning…(More prolonged sheeting showers – occasional glimpse of ‘sun’?)… very early, on my way back from loading the bullock, I squelch over fields running with water to check the sheep. The flock had split finding high, dry protected hedgebanks on which to shelter. I walk through from Square Field when I noticed a ewe and her two lambs staring intently at something. I move forward and see the white stag. It’s a surreal scene, the stag framed by verdant trees, the sheep in attendance. Like something out of Narnia.
On Friday…(Rain, rain, rain interspersed with torrential showers )... I bring a young heifer, due to calf, up to Little Hill, a small field next to the house. I need to keep an eye on her as a young, new born calf could run into problems and become hypothermic in the continuously wet weather.
On Saturday…(Wind, rain, with heavy rain in between)…I gather the sheep into the yard to see if any lambs are ready. No, they need another couple of weeks, they are using their energy to keep warm rather than grow fat. I take the opportunity to check the sheep’s feet which are suffering from constantly standing in clay-wet, muddy ground. Their feet are soft, white and wrinkly – ‘washer-women’s fingers’ – the horn gaping away from the foot.
On Sunday…(Sudden bucketing showers – three sightings of sun)…I walk the dogs through waist-high matted, wet, tangled grass, waiting to be cut; we surprise a small group of red deer and their young calves. The older dogs sit and wait but young Ness unknowingly rushes on and is brought up by surprise as a large hind turns with a snort ready to attack her. We walk on through Hannaborough Moor, I’m soaked to the skin, but I feel a sense of freedom. This is not mizzley rain; these are stair-rods. And this land, this particular place, is in its element. It rejoices in drenching, relentless wetness. It’s loving it! And do you know what, in some wired way …so am I!
Forecast…heavy rain for the foreseeable future