Friday, 19 November 2010


After writing that I had barely been outside yesterday, I reflected that at the moment I probably spend less time outside now than I did at Broad Marston, especially during the hours of darkness. At Broad Marston, I looked up at the stars when I crossed the courtyard to get to chapel and breakfast in the early mornings, and to go to bed after Compline. At Mucknell, I walk down corridors, and although there are many windows and large doors, the light inside obscures the darkness outside. And so, I haven't yet seen a single star.

Today it was dawning pink over the kitchen garden as we came out of chapel - that I could see through the glass of the East Link. The sort of pastel colours that would look hideous if artificially reproduced, but in the sky are delicate and glorious. "Red sky in the morning, shepherds' warning"; but the day belied the adage, and turned out mild and sunny and perfect for taking photos of the new bell. I had a wander round the grounds, my first reasonably long walk for a week. In the hedgerows, there are still some haws, hips and sloes clinging on. The brambles are still mostly green. But now is the time of ivy and mistletoe.

In the eastern distance, five men were walking in a line across a field, waving large flags, with their dogs fanning out ahead. Cars were parked in the lane. Then came the sound of whistles and gun shots - a shooting party. Possibly not surprisingly, there were hardly any birds to be seen or heard on that side of Mucknell, even along the stream on the north, beyond which sheep may safely graze. I did, however, see a buzzard. Anthony told me a while ago that one was nesting along the stream, but he wasn't sure whether the nest was still being used since our neighbours grubbed up a lot of the trees on their bank. I found it in the fairly mature oak by the stream, and then wandered over to the solitary oak, whereupon I saw the buzzard glide up to perch in one of the bank-side trees, then fly off to the north west. When I reached the base of the oak, I found a mostly eaten dove or pigeon, still quite fresh. So I withdrew up the ridge and furrow, and waited. The buzzard returned within a few minutes, but to the fields on the northern side of the stream, and flew tantalisingly to and fro. I had to give up, and squelched back through the area the diggers had recently smoothed. I put up a few pied wagtails, which had been enjoying the watery quagmire, and skylark from the more grassy areas in the cut.

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