On the last day of April, I took myself for a short walk, from country house to country house near me. They’re all called Sleningford-something-or-other – Old Hall, Hall, Grange – in memory of the village of the same name that was ravaged by marauding Scots in the Middle Ages, never to be seen again. Though they had older antecedents, all these buildings are from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and they all mark pleasant pauses in our walking routines. Here’s the gatehouse to the first, Sleningford Old Hall, its window enabling the gatehouse keeper to keep his eye on all the comings and goings into the estate. Well, the last actually. I’m showing my last photo first, and working back towards home.
Only the upstairs windows of the house itself were visible over the high wall which maintains the owners’ privacy.
A mile or so beforehand, I’d already passed Sleningford Park and Hall. You can see the house set in its parkland in the feature photo. The conservatory has glass enough, and the gatehouse too has windows pointing in every direction to help the gatekeeper do his job.
I’d started from home of course, less than a mile before that. Not that we live in the house you see here. But we’re lucky enough to live in its grounds, in a rather simpler dwelling, which has its own long history – that’s for another day.
Lockdown again. Forensic exploration of our own neighbourhood again, as we set off for daily exercise. Yet one way or another, I’ve posted dozens of shots of the area I call home, and I can’t expect others to delight in it as I do. The other day though I noticed, as I hadn’t since the car-free spring lockdown when birds were vying for territory and nesting, distant birdsong.
It made me think about the creatures who share our daily round. Not the elusive ones – the stoats, weasels, foxes, deer who decline to stick around as you get your camera out. The types like Basil and Brenda, as our neighbours call the over-sexed pigeons who stomp across their roof, noisily indulging their passion at 6.00 a.m.
The horse who moved in with the Jacob sheep in the next field at the beginning of lockdown when her stables closed for business. She’s still here. The hens next door, who sometimes deliver eggs for our breakfast.
The large flocks of sheep who are part of every farmer’s daily round in these parts – no cattle for us..
The heron who nicks fish from our landlord’s pond.
The mallards on the village pond, and the crows on the rooftops. The squirrels dashing across our path and up the nearest tree. The pheasants who are even more abundant this year, as lockdown’s put a stop to the shooting parties they were specifically bred for. Rabbits too. So many rabbits. Why haven’t I got any photos of them?
The featured photos shows our much-frequented path through Sleningford Hall at Easter time, with all the new lambs.