The best laid plans of mice and men

Plus befriending four horses

Hello, and welcome to a rather delayed newsletter! Sunday turned into a duvet day with a 24 hour bug. Then we had the news that our house completion was delayed to the end of February so the beginning of this week was taken up with stern emails, site visits, phone calls and text messages! We’re still waiting to hear the outcome. Fingers crossed!

The lane at the side of the cottage has become my microcosm. Although Bamber and I take our walks down there, I like to have a purpose too, and will often have a letter ready to take with me and post in the postbox at the bottom of the lane.

I’m still trying to work out the route of the public footpaths*, especially the one that seems to cut through some pretty extensive land belonging to a gated property. I’ve been consulting maps but need to get fully au fait with right of way around here because I’d love to have a wander around the fields belonging to that property (see photo below). * I have since found an app!

There are several markers as I walk down the lane and they seem to meander around, meeting up with the A517 or disappearing down the narrow lane where the stream floods across the road.

On my walks I’ve learned that the sheep about to lamb are now indoors. The new births are imminent. The sheep farmer also owns the dairy farm across the road and, a few weeks ago, filled in some gaps for me, telling me when the sheep were due to give birth, that it’s a bit like a relay race and these sheep will hand over the baton in a few weeks to the next batch due. I love learning these snippets of information about farming. I still have so many questions!

I’ve always associated lambing with Spring, especially after Lambing Live (which I loved). But, around here, lambing and calving seems to happen in the dead of Winter. Although Chris said, only yesterday, that he thought he could sense Spring on its way.

I love that, if you pass someone on the lane, they always say Morning, Afternoon or Hello. Total strangers will chat with you. The sheep farmer’s wife has told us more about the sheep, their working dogs, and the family farm across the road. It’s all really helped me piece together more information about the immediate area and farm life.

On Saturday I had a solo trip down to the postbox. I didn’t have a lot of time as Chris had an Instagram Live for his new project @turnability. I planned to take a few photos and be back at the cottage by 12:30 in time for lunch before going live at 13:00.

It was a pretty standard walk for me. Peering into the hedgerows, admiring the now familiar trees, enjoying the fine day. Then I spotted these hens by the side of the road and took a quick photo. I was about to take another photo when I heard the sound of horses. The gate was open so I peered in!

From the roadside, there’s really not much to see. Just the back of an outbuilding. I’ve walked past here umpteen times over the last few weeks. Inside is a smallholding. As well as the chickens, there are two sheep (which I’ve noticed in the fields below), and four horses.

I don’t have any aspirations to ride, although I love horses. I just love animals in general, especially an opportunity to be up close.

(Interestingly, I did have riding lessons when I was 10 or 11. I have no memory of it at all. I remember owning a crop, a Christmas present from one of my Mum’s friends, but I have no recollection of actually using it. Horse riding came up in a conversation with my Mum and Dad about 10 years ago. I said something about never having learned to ride! My Mum told me I went to a riding school on a weekly basis! Nothing! No memories!).

There were horses in Heaton Park in Manchester. I remember one horse I befriended who I named The Brownie. S/he was brown! We developed one of those connections that happens with animals. I would look out for him and when he spotted me, he would come across. He would allow me to stroke him. One day I got a horse hug! He put his head to the side of mine and rested it there. It was a perfect moment of connection.

Back down the lane, the owners who were below in the field shouted over that I could say hello to the horses. It’s just like that around here. A warm welcome wherever you go. It was certainly unexpected and I stayed a while chatting to each of the horses in turn.

I’ve been invited to go back, once we can all meet properly.

By the time I’d finished checking out the horses, it was too late to post my letter! But it was another little adventure and surprise find to add to my list.

It’s often these seemingly small things that thrill me. Engaging with the calves at Inn Farm Dairy. Visiting the Jersey cows at Tagg Lane. Buying milk from a 24 hour self-service converted cow shed. Having a conversation (back in the day) with Annie from Biggin Hall. Driving down a country lane and having to pull over to look at the view.

Derbyshire is a voyage of discovery for me. It’s like a different world. I’m collecting invitations to visit a variety of farms. Inn Farm Dairy for a proper tour. Bradley Nook to see their oat milk production. The Stables. Plus a variety of artisanal businesses for Explore the Peak Park. I’m looking forward to the time when I can really start working on all of this.

In other news

I wrote a piece for Jane Lindsey of Snapdragon Life and her monthly publication, Some Seasonal Notes, about our early days in Derbyshire. You can find it on page 14.

I’m drafting another article at the moment about the impact of living at a gentler pace.

Until next time, thank you, as always, for reading my newsletters and sharing this journey with me.


The House Update

We’ve been counting down the days since Christmas. Originally, the new house was due to be completed by mid January then it moved, before Christmas, to 25th January. This week, the date changed again to week 5 i.e. first week in February and then, a day later, to week beginning 22nd February.

The hold up? Roof trusses! Not ours but the properties under construction opposite our house.

Apart from laying the block paved drive, the house is finished! We’re hoping to hear more in response to our email, site visit and phone calls, asking that the date be brought forward.

We’re both chomping at the bit to move in. So near, (I can see it from the bottom field), yet still so far!