It rather looks as if the only thing I got reasonably correct in my last blog was that it might snow ! Here we are, a whole month later, up to our ankles (nearly) in white stuff. At least it seems to have given lots of people something to cheer about.  Apparently, the hills are alive with children’s laughter, and lots of parents are joining in as well. It is amazing how something so simple and natural can lift people’s spirits, just really by breaking the monotony of lockdown and suddenly escaping ‘Ground-hog day’ mentality for a while. Even the horses and ponies have a touch of Spring Fever about them today. They haven’t actually built a snowman or anything yet but they have been flinging snow around with their exuberant bucking and kicking, which is about as close to a snowball fight as you can get, if you’re a horse. One of the ponies produced a reasonable version of a ‘snow angel’ when it rolled in the snow – more like a ‘snow butterfly’, actually. But, guess what…..?, it isn’t here to stay. Make the most of it because it’s turning back to rain later in the week, and rain equals mud, mud, glorious mud. Not that that is a major problem. Most of our smaller guests love nothing more than jumping into muddy puddles and sploshing about in mud.

It is nearly the end of January now and Spring is just out of sight. The Daffs’ are slow to emerge for some reason. We have a few individuals up and smiling but no clumps and clusters of brilliant colour, yet. The Snowdrops are doing much the same and the Primroses are also rather late. Despite all that, before the snow and ice came to visit last week the grass and Winter wheat suddenly had a surge of growth, which generally only happens when the ground temperature exceeds eight or nine degrees C. Another sign of emerging Spring is wild bird activity, especially in and around the garden and generally the busiest area being the bird table and feeders. Sadly, following advice from DEFRA to control the spread of Avian Flu ( Chinese bird flu ) we haven’t been putting out food for the birds so far this year. That means we haven’t seen our wood-
peckers, goldfinches and bull finches at all this Winter. They will all be struggling to find food, especially as the gamekeepers aren’t feeding the pheasants any more. A lot of wild birds and small mammals used to survive and thrive by stealing pheasant food during the hardest months of Winter. Fortunately, it was a very good year for hazelnuts and acorns, many of which are still available to birds if they are prepared to scratch and scrape around in the leaf litter, and as long as the grey squirrels and pheasants haven’t hoovered everything up, already.

Matey and Samson, our two horses, aren’t impressed with the lockdown measures. They haven’t been out of their field since Boxing Day. The Winter is usually their busiest time of the year, which means going out exercising three times a week and going out hunting once a week. They should be getting regular grooming, clipping and shoeing and just generally doing stuff to stop them getting bored and ‘going stale’. I could be shoeing them and exercising, etc, but it is a bit pointless as hunting has stopped during the lockdown. It doesn’t look like much will change there until March, at the earliest.

Reassuringly the vaccination application system is gaining momentum and the U.K. is once again leading the way in the global vaccination process to ultimately suppress the Covid 19 virus. Nobody yet knows how effective the available vaccines will be or how long they may work for but there is only one way to find out, rapidly. Get as many people immunised as soon as possible and see if herd immunity develops. New variants of the virus are evolving which could prove problematic and a small number of people are opposed to lockdown measures, face masks and vaccines. At the moment there really is no better alternative so all we can do is get on with it and hope for the best. That is how evolution happens, isn’t it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we are going to be opening up for the foreseeable future so we will be extending our Winter maintenance schedule. Since the government announcement about discouraging people from travelling and holidaying abroad,  we are having a flurry of enquiries and bookings for the availability that we have left, so if you are thinking about a holiday with us check out our website and especially our guests charter and Covid compliance section and then contact Tracey.

P.S Because our  school holiday availability for this year is sold out – our reserve list for 2022 is already longer than ever – mainly with new families who haven’t got in this year ! So if you aren’t on it and want to be please let me know – Tracey x

Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.