A cyclops-eye in the bare land, the lone copse: tree island. A haven for red deer, or safe enough, except for the eyelid-track that brings walkers and their dogs to the island shore. From below, the isle pierces a horizon of pleasant undulations. From above, its true situation: a lowland rut enveleoped by sometimes-wheat-fields. There best to see frigthened herds bolt south or north for thick hedge and treelines where morning dogs do not go.
Too weak to warm the earth, the now-low sun, powering down for the dark season, illuminates the last leaves side on. Rain of all kinds: sky-suspended, barely falling; rampant deluge; and the common or garden kind, noted only for its frequency. Snow-water, too. Greedily, the ground swallows it all, till full and flooding, and once-familiar ways become sticky traps, catching prints of foot, paw and hoof.
A short drive to a holloway between wild wood and hay meadow where cinnabars play. The wittering of an anxious brook. The tempting suggestion of trail-ways into fallen leaves and young trees. According to the season, we play fairy-seekers or pick blackberries. Or sometimes climb proud bails, lords of the shire.
The crooked farmhouse with the improbable purple door; the pond overseen by titanic wooden ducks; the new barn (a faux conversion); the curious stone outbuilding, all circles and cones. A puppy finds a gap under mesh fence and breaks free. Its owner pursues, and we offer a scant assistance of cheddar cubes. Fava beans grow as cover in the sunrise-field. A place of mist and migrating geese.
In the centre of a small hamlet, satellite to the main village: the old duck pond. Fortified by reeds, and under the watch of an aged oak leaning precariously from the edge over the water. After recent rains, the oak dips an obliging elbow beneath the high surface. There, happy ducks take rest, feet reassuringly wet. More arrive from the west, mallard and Aylesbury, circling in descent before a final drop onto the water. A chaotic flotilla assembles, like undocking yachts getting ready to race. Each waits for a turn on the comfortable bough.
There’s a ridge between farm fields that overlooks the valley. We stand there often, basking in the potential of a deer sighting. At dusk they settle in the humble copse we call tree island; at dawn they bolt at the approach of the earliest dog. Often, mist obscures the far bank, now unreachable due to a dispute over a footbridge at the old mill. Otherwise we gaze out at the tree lines and outbuildings, guessing at the newly-planted crops, or when the combine harvester is due, summoning buzzards.