Even the sheep are in Flockdown

Journal into the Unknown…(8)

I have dropped into a fairly healthy habit of early rising and getting out onto the byways around my neck of the woods before most of my neighbours get out of bed in the mornings. 

This is the time that I choose to exercise my right to exercise.

It also means that I am broadly out and about on my own.

I run into, or rather walk into, because running is definitely not on my agenda any more, a few regulars who are usually walking dogs.

No. I mean that they are usually taking their dogs for a walk, rather than actually being walking dogs!

Occasionally, I stumble across the odd jogger, usually female, hair tied back rhythmically swishing as they leave me in the dust; a random Lycra-clad ninja cyclist, usually male, grinding his way up a steep incline, making me wonder why I once did things like that; someone collecting a bundle of morning papers, often a health or care worker; or someone desperate for milk for an early morning brew. Apart from that, it’s me and whatever mother nature happens to throw up.

This covers a wide range of critters: some natural inheritors of our moorland and valley landscape and others either domesticated or definitely more exotic.

I guess the brightest thing I’ve seen has been a peacock sitting on a tractor in a farmyard up on the edge of a local moor. That stopped me in my tracks for a few moments. I’m quite used to seeing such things in the grounds of posh places, but this was a fairly scruffy farmyard and it simply seemed incongruous.

The strangest is probably a llama sitting in its oddly haughty straight-necked way in a field by a canal side, surveying all who passed. They always look so bloody superior!

Crackdown on the Lockdown, Goosedown, and Duckdown

I’ve seen alpacas; donkeys; chickens; rabbits; horses, ponies, cows; more grey squirrels than you could shake a bag of nuts at; geese by the noisy dozen, hissing, hooting, honking, fighting, spitting, and fornicating; ducks, including two that had us confused. One was a traditional male mallard that had clearly paired up with a white job. A little research revealed that this was probably a white mallard that had escaped from a life of domestic tedium.  That seemed to echo the theme of our times. Another curfew breaker, a lockdown denier! Maybe a prototypical anti-duckdowner? The one thing they all have in common is that they are really enjoying the space and time that they are having outside, together, with us humans out of the way.

The contrast is striking. Here we are cowering in our hideaways, be they cardboard boxes or palatial piles (and I do find the idea of those in high places suffering from haemorrhoids strangely egalitarian), while the rest of the world has a bit of a break, having high jinks with their pals without any threat of interference from the local constabulary. 

Brief Encounters

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I guess my most pleasing encounters have been the unexpected ones.The first is with some roe deer that I often startle in local bits of scrub land. The females are so delicate and refined in their movements that they are a real joy to watch. Having worked out where they hang out it is relatively easy to get quite close to them as they pick away fastidiously at road or trackside verges. Sometimes they simply move steadily away or keep watchfully munching as I slowly approach.  At other times they are startled, either by suddenly realising that I am there, or by a large bird bursting from its cover.  

However long they last, these chance meetings set me up for the day and give me quite a lift.


On a more comedic note, there is a small group of common or garden sheep kicking around our neighbourhood.   I would say flock, but they only number around half a dozen or so, and somehow that seems too few to qualify. They clearly come from the same place because they all have bright blue markings on their arse-ends. They roam quite freely, through the local graveyard, through gardens, along roadside verges, on ornamental lawns and flowerbeds, in fact wherever the mood takes them, including the verges of our local major road.

The more observant of you will however have noticed from the photo above, that they are quite scrupulous about observing social distancing.

On investigation, I discovered that this is no new phenomenon. They are locally regarded as feral and have been doing it for some time.  They clearly know what’s what too, because they have managed to become pregnant and deliver lambs, presumably without any outside assistance.  Whoever owns them tries to keep them under control, but these are Colditz sheep.  Up until a few days ago they have always found a way to forge papers, dig tunnels, impersonate rabbits, or do whatever it takes to get out.

Sadly, this week things have changed! Restrictions and sanctions have started to bite, and maybe that is not all.   Perhaps the market for spring lamb has picked up.  The government may claim that The Flockdown is now having a real impact, but I expect to find a shortage of wild mint any time now and that will confirm my suspicions.

Roast potatoes anyone?



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