Sunday, February 26, 2006


I am delighted to be able to post that Chirbury and Marton came 4th in the recent pantomime competition and also scooped the 'best over 18 female vocalist (well done Rachel for singing your heart out) and best double act - Huwie and Jim-Bob who were a classy Massey and Ferguson..........The show will be performed again in Marton Village Hall on the 8th March. And we're all looking forward to that!

Back down to earth. Thanks to Dan and Alan on the digger, most of the tree pits are now dug and ready to be planted. It's horrid working out there though as the bitter northerly continues to blow. Tomorrow we'll be planting. All this planting will improve our 'carbon footprint' and go some way to compensate for every light left on and TV set on stand-by.

Last night at dusk Alan and the brown dog, Chester were on the field (why??) and had the pleasure and priviledge of watching a barn owl hunting, sweeping low over the ground at the bottom of the dingle.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Little Red Tractors, diggers and dumpers....

Thursday evening, Church Stretton School gym and the 'opening night' of 'The Little Red Tractor'. Chirbury and Marton Young Farmers and their band of loyal supporters foregathered, well scrubbed and eager to please, and in the case of the supporters in the audience, be pleased.

Chirbury and Marton were last on the bill and a collective bag of nerves. Wem and Ludlow presented two polished and amusing perfomances and had certainly warmed the audience up. Our team were well received and put on a very good show, pulling out all the stops. Lots of singing and repartee, the stuff panto is made of. Only another two nights and 5 more clubs to go and we should have a result. I suspect it will be amongst the honourable mentions and not the prizewinners.

That blasted song: 'I go Oo' Oo, Oo ' etc was sung FIVE! times at the end of the show so is still lodged in my brain despite my best efforts to replace it with something less annoying. Why are some tunes like that?

Then another day of sleety rain, which settled white over. A bitter wind howled down from the north too and the sky a slate grey. We collected a load of trees and shrubs from the Derwen Garden Centre and heeled in the bare root specimens before the cold got the better of us.

Today Alan has a mini-digger and with the help of Dan is moving soil and will eventually get on to digging tree pits. Next week's works is cut out for us, planting. As I write this the sun is shining on Badnage Wood and all the clouds are light and fluffy ones but the wind chill factor brings the temperature down down down. My workers are muffled, hatted and gloved and demanding regular infusions of hot tea.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I go Oo, Oo, Oo.............

.............that damned song is still worming through my brain.

Today there is a bitter wind from the north, carrying with it flurries of snow. (Will somebody tell the Weather God it's nearly March and the winter should be over and done and the time of the singing of birds upon us?) Yesterday strode out, dog on lead, for the usual-4 miler round what passes for 'the block' in these parts.

Hat, gloves, scarf, gaiters - GAITERS??? - boots and coat against more foul weather. (Thank goodness the style police are not about.) Up our lane, a steep hollow way, and turn right towards Wales, leaving England and the Shropshire Hills behind me. On a clear day the views are stunning. The Stiperstones, Stapley Common and Corndon are in the near distance, rising steeply from the Rea and Camlad Valleys. The Long Mynd stretches along the horizon.

There is a single lamb in the first field, a tiny scrap of a thing nestled in the lee of the ewe. The rest of the flock look up hopefully, begin a mass bleat in anticipation of sheep nuts.

We press on along the lane, getting into our stride - walker and dog. Wind in our faces and a hint of gritty snow. Good for clearing ones head - and thoughts, tunes, images and ideas flood in, a scrambled mess. This 'walk' - done almost daily is becoming my own private space. I am generally uninterupted. A small figure in a landscape - its vastness my own. There is no pace but my own. I am trying to observe the minute detail and intricate lacery in the the turning of the seasons. So one day it is a lamb, tomorrow a snowdrop, always the weather and the sky......... I am trying too to make sense of this landscape in an historical context - it is a very ancient place and I look for ghosts of Briton, Celt and Saxon in the shapes of fields and woods and paths. This ramble may be form of meditation.

40 minutes brisk walking, uphill, brings me to the half way mark and from here it's all downhill. The weather on the top is particularly cold as the wind whips across the common land known as Walton Hill. I'm now walking southeastwards - back towards Shropshire and that impressive line of hills. A narrow lane, a line of beech trees shaped by the wind and house called 'Pleasant View'. Our small settlement - Lower House is just visible behind the hill - from one view point we are the only sign of habitation and look very isolated. Otherwise the landscape is a patchwork of field, hedge and wood. A brief blizzard necesitates a turning up of collars and tugging down of hats. The dog puts has head down against the snow which must be stinging into his eyes.

Take the turn at the little crossroads to Fir House (which may historically be Far House or even Furze House, whatever, which has been demolished and a modern steel barn erected in its place). Snowdrops, planted by some old farmer's wife continue to flower in what was the garden and a few old apple trees linger on, marking the site of an old orchard.

The dog and I stop and talk a while with a local farmer while he feeds his ewes - a flock of Welsh mules which will lamb in a fortnight's time. We discuss sheep in some detail. The dog now has a scent of home and after a struggle with the gate and ubiquitous orange baler twine which fastens it we follow the track which skirts Badnage Wood. There is a dead sheep in the stream at the bottom which I am watching with interest. It has been there for nearly a month now and is slowly 'melting' away in a Daliesque manner. I am watching its transformation from woolly beast to skeleton, from round to flat. It must smell particularly fascintaing to a dog as noses always twitch at this point and leads are pulled towards the stream. My inadequate human nose however cannot detect a thing.

And home. Dog greets other dog as if centuries had passed since their last meeting. Boots off, coat off. Cup of tea. Outside the wind persists and the sky darkens.

.......and 'I go Oo, Oo, Oo' is but a distant echo. I think.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Local yokels

The morning after a 12 hour stint on the scenery for the local young farmers pantomine production of 'The Little Red Tractor'. A long day wielding a paint brush ended with a run through, in costume, of the production. It seems virtually identical to the last 2 productions. Once again I am suprised that the young people - who many would see as perfect examples of yokel-dom - choose to play the part of country bumpkins and fail to see the irony in that.

Everyone stumbled through their words, sang off key and the back end of the pantomime cow was writing up a college project. How we laughed? I have the most annoying, cloying song coursing through my head: 'I go Oo, Oo, Oo, You go Ha, Ha, Ha....'

However, it is amazing how much can be achieved in a very short time with a great deal of goodwill and come Thursday The Show Will Go On. Round here of course, the weather must be taken into consideration and snow is a possibility.