In the deep freeze

We are still having alternate days of hard frost and then partial thaw. The roads around the back are like a skating rink. Water is running off the fields on the thaw days then freezing overnight. Lyra is learning much about ice and frost on our walks. She is most intrigued by the concept of puddles that can be stood on and, after two duckings, is now more alert to the creaking noises which herald the cracking of the surface. Her figure skating skills when navigating the slippery sections of road are much better than my own, but I think having two pairs of legs gives her an advantage.

The treachery of the road surface has made journeying by way of the fields distinctly more attractive. After the recent boxing match I have been returning most times we are out to the hare field. Most days there has been one darting across, but yesterday we saw another pair. These were not engaged in fisticuffs but sitting in the middle of the icy field staring at one another. I could not decide, at long range, if this was pre-match psychological warfare of the Mohammed Ali variety or a doe and a buck having a meaningful moment. Whatever it was, when they spotted us they took to the trees.

The day before we had been startled by a fawn stumbling out of the bushes along the west of that field and I was hopeful of another sighting. However, with no further Disney moments by the time we got to the stubble field, I let Lyra off the lead and we crunched companionably over the frozen stubble up over the brow of the hill. The sudden appearance of a brown hare set off an impressive cross field steeple chase. I ran back up the ridge and scanning the horizon from the top I was beginning to panic when I noticed a bobbing white shape running up and down along the tree line two fields away. After some fruitless searching the white blob turned back and had only just turned back into my smiling doggy friend when another bloody hare emerged and she was off again. This time she sailed over Beechers Brook , through the trees and into the field to the south. I followed suit. Again the hare made short work of the chase and my fluffy friend started back. The field drain seemed to look much more of a barrier on the return leg than it had in the heat of the chase. With the adrenalin running low she took it too tentatively and enjoyed an icy dook. This was the self same field drain I had, a little further along, stuck my welly in on an ill tempered route march the day before so I tendered the compensation dog treat with a good degree of fellow feeling.

Not being minded to make another sprint over the top the ridge the lead was attached and we pooled along the southern edge of the field and cut through to the next. There was a thicket of alder to admire, with tiny pink catkins, and we also came upon a distinctly rickety bridge over the offending field drain. As we got to the end of the field `I could see some movement so we tried to keep as quiet as possible and I was hoping that the rushing of the water in the drain would mask our sound. There were three fawns in the next field and they seemed not to have noticed us. For once we had made it almost into camera range and I was just fumbling for my phone when there was a double fusillade, shotguns to the east and a bird scarer to the west. Three white rears bounced away…………..

We marched on to the old churchyard. There’s a letterbox in the wall and I had a missive to Ishbel in my pocket. That task at least was accomplished…

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