the rambles of a family of five in Australia


a-hunting we will go, a-hunting we will go…

The Lodge

A favourite film scene of mine has always been the fox hunt which Mary Poppins, Bert the chimney-sweep and Michael and Jane Banks get caught up in while in one of Bert’s chalk pavement pictures. I’m not sure if it is the charming mix of animation and real-life actors, the music or the comical animals that make it so enjoyable for me, even now as an adult.

Recently, we had the opportunity to lurk on the edges of the local Hunt’s Meet, prior to the commencement of the actual hunt itself. Due to the ban on fox-hunting which is in place in England, there were scent trails laid, rather than the hunt searching out an actual fox.

The weather itself was glorious: sunshine beamed down, the breeze was no more than a zephyr and we found ourselves scenting spring on the air, rather than frost and snow.

The Meet

 We walked up to the Lodge and stood on the ha-ha (a walled embankment above a field) to watch the hunt meet. The horses were enormous and high-spirited – great fun to watch – and their riders were decked out in glorious costume. (Not really costume, but the outfits dictated by custom.) We even spotted a lovely lady riding side-saddle in a fabulous skirted riding-habit – quite as if she had stepped from the pages of an Austen novel. Riding hats are merely hats here – not helmets (it’s not even compulsory to wear a bicycle helmet when riding on the road here!) – so there were various modes of headgear: top hats, bonnets; caps etc.

Taking some final instructions…

The hounds were brought up after about half an hour or so, by the Master of the Hounds/Kennels, and they were gorgeous. Liver and white and thigh high when standing on all fours they were inquisitive, boisterous and utterly consumed by the need to explore. The home-made sausage rolls and glasses of port being handed around were safe only on horseback or in the hands of the very confident. E was captivated and desperate to get closer to the ‘dogs!’ until he was licked in the face, which made him more timid. (N.B. Never let anyone hear you say ‘Dogs’. They must always be referred to as ‘Hounds’.)

When it was time for the hunt to set off we got to see the Master of the Kennels in action. He had such amazing control of the whole pack of 20 or so hounds that he could look at one who was baying softly and say ‘Shhh’ with his finger to his lips, and the hound would stop. Only once did we see one hound continue, at which point it was flicked on the nose (by the Master, who was on horseback) with a piece of cord, and then it did hush!

The hounds led off the hunt – searching for a scent to follow – and were then followed by the riders. We saw them hither and yon across the estate for most of the day after that and it was a bit of a thrill to hear the horn being winded and to be part of our own Mary Poppins moment.

E rediscovering sunshine

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christmas 2010

Jesus is the reason for the season!

Rob getting suitably attired to sit in the kitchen and open presents…

E’s first gift – not really sure what to do with all the paper…

First gift unwrapped and sorted – think E is getting the hang of it all!

New crockery and cutlery from Gma and Gpa….

…yep – it’s a winner!

‘More tractor, Daddy, more tractor!’

E chose this himself on Christmas Eve and is still delighted by it!

Cooking Christmas Lunch – E loves to grind pepper.

E also volunteered to wash up. Water all over the floor = happy little boy.

E had his eye on dessert (apple pie) since he woke up. (So did his Dad!)

The wonders of Christmas snowfall!

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time for a fire

One of the most amazing things we experience, living where we do, is to be surrounded by unfamiliar birds, animals and plants.

Only this week we have watched water buffalo bathing in the lake; stags clashing antlers (as the breeding season gets underway); smaller deer pronking (jumping along on all four legs at the same time); 200-300 wild geese wheeling in an extended ‘V’ formation as they prepare for migration; squirrels scrambling up and down the beech trees as they prepare their hoards for winter; pheasants and partridges feeding on our driveway; a sparrowhawk dragging a pigeon off for lunch after a quick, neat kill; and dozens of different birds thronging our bird table.

We’ve also seen walnuts and chestnuts ripe for the harvesting on various trees on the estate; apples growing wild so bountifully that the ground around them was littered with windfalls; little red-yellow crab apples; huge cooking Bramleys and all sorts of plums ready to be picked by the score.

E harvests our raspberries as often as he can get away with it – and is receiving lessons in sharing as a result. This is a wonderful place for a child to spend time in, and we are enjoying ourselves enormously.

We won’t mention how cold it is already, and the frequent rain, which is creating opportunities to wash more often! We’ll just leave you with a picture of our first coal-fire and the assurance that we are spending as much time as possible in front of it!