Travels with MaryE

Most things I love best are about good light and good timing. That's where the adventures start. Don't be in no hurry here. Here you'll find a little bit about bluegrass music, fox hunting, life on the road, time on the mountain, and a whole lot about other things, too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Country Ways, Foggy Days

Today I headed for such well-known spots as Snodhill and Urishay; I reckon they're in the west of England, but perhaps they're in Wales. At any rate, they're not too many miles from Hereford or Hay-on-Wye. Up that way (like so many places around here) the lanes are narrow and passing places are few and far between. It wasn't so many years ago that I had nightmares of meeting someone coming the other way on one of these lanes. Going up toward Dorstone this morning I took a narrow and winding lane up from Bredwardine toward Dorstone with a 25% grade!!! Try stopping quickly on that with mud in the road and blind curves at every turn. It's quite amazing that more wrecks don't happen around here.

So I reached Snodhill after passing the Pandy Inn in Dorstone (a good place, I'm told) and it wasn't long till I found a bunch of my friends, as they so often are, leaning over a galvanized gate straining to catch a glimpse of the horses and hounds as they enjoyed their exercise. I was standing on a high field looking down at the scene in front of me. Behind me were castle ruins (Snodhill Castle) and a small wood that surrounds them. I stood there on the hill with men named Dai and Derek, regular old names in these parts. Soon a very distinguished gentleman way up in his 90s strode up to us with his horn-handled walking stick, dressed in fairly traditional garb for the gents of his generation (posh wellies, very tidy appearance and a good dose of wool and tweed), and we all started chatting about the things we'd seen in past years from this same spot. Back in those days we saw foxes running this way and that from the creek below across the fields and on up into the wood; now these things are relegated to memory.

Soon the horses and hounds appeared below, a few fields off, down by a bit of a stream. I left the gentlemen and walked down close to the road where I thought the horses would soon be coming past and got my big Nikon ready for some action shots.

My guess proved lucky and soon the hounds and huntsman rounded the bend toward me followed by the mounted field. They went on up around the castle tump (hills provide better exercise) and came down through the little wood by which I happened to be standing. Dai, a local farmer and good guy, courteously held open the old wooden gate so the huntsman, hounds and mounted field could pass through. As it happened that was the closest glimpse I was to have of horses and hounds all day.

Following the hounds has helped me to learn the countryside and meet its humble people in a way that few other activities could have. For this I am eternally grateful as it is the countryside and the ways of its down-to-earth people that keep me returning here again and again. It's the roadside chats with friendly folks and the chance glimpse of a red kite or a fox or a hare or a hedgehog that keeps me roaming and rambling the countryside with eyes peeled and heart wide open.

The door here is just one of many such doors I glimpsed today as I passed up narrow, inviting lanes. I met a nice chap on whose door I knocked after (never done this before) I chanced to skid on some wet leaves and went straight into his hedge, leaving a fencepost at 45 degrees to the ground. He was surprised I'd stopped to confess and in his country way insisted that I not worry a bit about it, he'd go down and put it right just now. That's the kind of folks I live around.

On the way home as the light (what little there was today!) was dipping lower in the sky and the hills were shrouded in fog, I saw an older lady near a quarry entrance who had a flat tire. Now I don't have a clue how to change a tire but I stopped to lend moral support - and flagged down a lorry driver who soon put it right. Good folks out here in the country, to be sure.


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