Sue Woodcock: Childhood love of the countryside that has lasted for a lifetime

THERE has been a lot of oyster catchers around recently. They really are the most handsome birds, with their black and white plumage and their brightly coloured head and beak.

They are graceful birds and spend some time investigating my fields. They also sit on the walls beside the roads apparently watching the passing traffic. At the moment the roads are littered with the carcasses of rabbits and pheasants, not to mention the many hedgehogs that potter around at the side of the road.

In my barns there are young families of swifts and I noticed when I was in the shippon the other day that I was being watched by two babies from the safety of their nest. The moment one of their parents appeared they started creating in their anticipation of their new batch of food. The parents flit in and out all day to be replaced in the evenings by the numerous bats that fly in and out of the buildings.

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I like bats and they keep the air clear of annoying insects. I see them hunting over the mire most evenings and swooping to catch their prey.

The weather is still not right. Last week I had mist, drizzle, wind, sunshine and warmth and then the next moment it is cold and either pouring with rain or just generally rather damp. The mire is soft and moist and there are puddles all over the place.

The grass is sending up seed heads which stand proud and are very pretty. The reeds in the mire are flowering and lush; the lambs are all eating grass now and come when I feed the sheep. I purchased a mineral bucket which they spend some time nibbling at or fighting over while their mothers beg for extra food. None of my sheep are thin and are getting very greedy.

My Jacob tup John stands at the barn door and demands a lot of bread while the chickens forage round underneath him.

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Although it was bank holiday we had a rehearsal for Buckden Singers as we only have a few weeks before the concert. The weather had been kind and the dale looked glorious in the evening sunshine as we drove up. We were early so we went on to Hubberholme for a quick drink. The area is steeped in history and surrounded by stunning beauty. No wonder people visit the area.

I was speaking to some visitors at the weekly quiz who told me it was like coming to another world, so different from the city where they live. What impressed them most is the silence or at least the distance subtle noises of the countryside can carry. At that moment two tractors trundled by laden with fresh-cut hay on trailers. They were far from silent.

Haymaking has started and with the grass growing at the rate it is there will be plenty of time for a second crop. The smell of new-mown hay takes me straight back to my childhood when I used to stay on a farm, but then it was stacking up sheaves of hay.

I was taken fruit picking and for years after a spell of soft fruit picking I couldn’t face strawberries, raspberries or currants. In those days it was considered right for children to help with things like that and I had a wonderful time out in the open air meeting other children and earning a bit of extra money. Those are happy memories. I was born in London but always longed to escape the urban life. Now I have done so and have no regrets.

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I enjoyed doing street angels in Skipton the other night. I can window shop without having to spend anything. It was not very busy and the youngsters we meet are so accepting of our presence on our patrols. It is gratifying to see them enjoying a good night out even if it does make me feel very old sometimes. I wish I had some of their energy. They greet us with high fives and sometimes ask for group hugs.

There have been some interesting cloud formations this week. There is plenty of sky to look at up here when I have a moment and it is part of the pleasure of living in such an exposed place.

I can see Pendle Hill and Ilkley Moor from my place and even beyond. It is an ever-changing vista. The light changes from hour to hour and when there is a fine sunset I stop and take it all in. It is free and a great joy to me.

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