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.

a grubby niche

It is down to geological and evolutionary happenstance that there are no monkeys on the island of Madagascar: a fact that has allowed some 100 species of lemur to survive there. Among them, surely none is stranger than the aye-aye …

A Grubby Niche • Damn Interesting

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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.