Pigeon post and feeling right at home

Plus being licked into shape by a Jersey cow!

Welcome to this week’s missive on a very misty Sunday in the Derbyshire countryside.

Our current rental is in a small village not far from the new house. I suppose you could describe it as a hamlet. A couple of roads and lanes, populated with some epic properties. I rather like the single track road that runs parallel to here with a stud farm, chocolate box cottages and the most fantastic grounds. I keep trying to decide which is my favourite - the house at the end with not just one but two summer houses, its own miniature lake complete with ducks, and incredible trees; or the more modern construction with acres and acres of land, stables and horse box.

Most of the houses have a store of chopped wood, one or two 4x4s parked on the drive, cottage gardens and/or orchards. This really is country living.

I’ve found a good route for walking. Down the single track road, all the way to the bottom, over the narrow bridge, through the mud, along the track, turn right at the end and then first left. I love the shrubs along this road. Necklaces of red berries dangle from trees and bushes. I have no idea what they are but I find them captivating and very photogenic.

We’re not yet used to the country roads. Land Rovers tear along at a rate of knots. Not many, admittedly, but when you hear them, you leap on to the narrow grass verge out of the way. It’s a bit discombobulating for Chris so we’re all going on dog walks together.

Yesterday we did a recce near our next rental which is a working farm. I really hope they have cows! I’m quite excited about the prospect of 6 weeks on a farm. I just wish I had a pair of wellies but my pink boots will do!

We had a poignant visit to Eyam on Monday. Pre-lockdown, we thought, let’s make the most of the days while we can. (Although it has to be said that this lockdown doesn’t seem quite as belt and braces as the last one). Eyam is the original Plague Village where the villagers selflessly put themselves and the entire village into quarantine following an outbreak of the black death. Whole families were wiped out although, interestingly, some people had a chromosome configuration that gave them immunity and there are present day villagers who also share these same chromosomes.

Afterwards we headed to the Post Office for my first collection of the Post Restante mail. It didn’t have quite the same cachet as it must have done, back in the day, when travellers picked up their mail and billets doux as they voyaged around Europe on their grand tour.

We’ve been loving the produce from the local farm shop. As has Bamber. Let’s just say, he hams it up when we go in there! I popped in one day on my own and the shopkeeper looked past me, asking where’s Bamber? They treat him to offcuts of ham, making him sit and wait first, before he’s allowed a small piece. Both they and Bamber think it’s brilliant!

Wherever we go, we’re made so welcome. Everyone says morning, hello or afternoon. People stop to chat. Bamber is the main talking point, of course.

On Wednesday I had a last hurrah and went to the bookshop at Brierlow Bar. Now more widely known as the High Peak Bookstore, it’s long been a favourite of mine, and I have happy memories of my Dad and I browsing the shelves. I bought a couple of books to tide me over including a lovely version of Jane Eyre with family trees and maps.

I popped into Tagg Lane for a latte and a piece of fruit cake. The cow shed doors were closed. So, I sat in the car savouring my latte and cake, contemplating how lucky I was to be able to do this. And then the tractor emerged from the cow shed, turned full circle and drove back in. I knew what this meant. Feeding time! I abandoned my latte and went to lean on the metal fence watching the cows quietly munching on their meal. The farmer finished putting out the feed and came to move the metal gate into place. Some of the cows walked round to access the feed on the other side of the cow shed and came to check me out. One gave my coat a thorough licking which made me laugh, and reminded me of the days when I worked on a farm in my teens and the calves in my charge would suck on the legs of my jeans.

One of the outfitters in Ashbourne had a pre-lockdown 30% off sale so we bought Chris a country coat. He calls them duster coats but they’re known as bush coats. Full length, waterproof and very man about the countryside. I popped into Little Paperie just in case there were a few things I needed! It turned out to be a new pencil case, some extra Lamy purple ink cartridges, and a couple of cards.

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I’m thinking a lot about what living at a gentler pace means in the context of our new life here in Derbyshire. The idea pre-dates our decision to move but is inextricably linked to our dream to be here.

I’m noticing the differences.

The peace and quiet. I remember back in March when we first went into lockdown and were allowed one walk outside every day. I loved the tranquillity. There were no cars on the roads, the path I took which overlooked the motorway was silent. Nature seemed to reclaim its territory somehow and the vibe shifted. It felt amazing. It’s just like that here. As I walked down the road today I experienced that exact same feeling.

Although cars whizz by on the roads, the people don’t seem to live at a breakneck speed. Strangers stop as you step back on a narrow track to let their car pass, wind down the window and ask you about your dog. There seems to be a genuine interest in who we are and what we do.

We hear the squeak of pheasants and occasionally see one running out of the way as we drive along. Every night there’s the hooting of an owl. Fields are populated alternately with cows sheep cows.

These are all the things I hoped for and I feel right at home as I walk along mud tracks, peering into the hedgerows looking for some treasure to photograph.

Last week I mentioned Pigeon and was hoping that these letter/envelope combos might have been part of my mail collection. They were! An A4 sheet, folded origami style in a variety of beautiful designs, several have been winging their way around the country. (I’m enjoying having time to write letters and postcards). The stamp seals the letter, there’s no need for an envelope, it’s all self-contained. I’m hoping they’ve been a nice surprise for the recipients, so far.

I requested some stamps too, expecting a couple of books of stamps, but instead received a selection of special edition stamps which was a nice touch.

Until next time, thank you for reading.