Sunday, 4 September 2011

Town and Country

I had always fancied myself as a bit of a country type. Brought up in a small market town in rural Shropshire, surrounded by farms, the smell of manure held no fear for me. However, slowly but surely the scales have fallen from my eyes, the disillusionment has been revealed and accepted. I am “A Townie” through and through.

It all began a few years ago when I bought a pony-trekking session for an ex-partner. Aforementioned partner cantered up ahead while I was stuck on a horse that might have once been white, but now looked like one of my old vests, with a nicotine-stained fringe. My horse was more interested in chomping away in verges and ditches. “Just kick your legs!” came the orders from up front. Well, my little legs were bouncing off the sides of that horse to no avail. The next day, walking like John Wayne back from a long trip, I considered I might be better just walking in nature, rather than trying to be so “hands-on”.

Being firmly of the school of “all the gear, no idea”, I bought a small rucksack, waterproofs, boots and a book Pub Walks Around Britain. This couldn’t fail. I dragged my suitably kitted partner out of bed early one weekend and we set off for a good long walk (well, three mile loop). It all started well, deep breath in, ahhh fresh air, views…ooh ankle deep in mud, and other stuff. No matter. Over the stile into a field full of cows, the biggest cows you’ve ever seen, surely prize specimens for any County show? And they were curious, very curious, so much so that there was no indolent staring and chewing but a stampede towards us. Partner already disappearing into the distance (my hero), I followed rapidly back through mud and unmentionables to land breathlessly the other side of a stone wall – the beauty and security of which did not escape me. On the long trek back round to the car I wondered if just looking at wildlife might be a safer option.

Next month off we went to a Shire Horse Centre. Lovely. Great big shiny beasts behind nice secure stable doors and at safe distances in paddocks. Ah, this is more me I thought, until a stableman appeared with his roll-up firmly stuck to his bottom lip, shouting that he was about to take the stallion to “serve” some mares and for us all to gather round. Intriguing. Then the stallion appeared, no doubt what was on his mind, he wouldn’t be “serving” drinks…Well, I came over quite Jane-Austin-faint at the sight of all this. Measurements could have been taken in double-decker buses or football pitches I’m sure. The American tourists who formed part of our gang of voyeurs started taking photos, and I did wonder what the accompanying commentary might be to that slide show back home.

So as Autumn approaches I am preparing for lots of woodland walks with my dog. Gentle strolls in colourful, deciduous woodland, what could be safer than that? What’s that you say, deer rutting…?

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