Coast Diary – May 21st

I’m back – what did I miss?

May is in full swing – its been sunny and rainy and occasionally even warm. The big field below is a sea of green barley, the swallows are gaining strength and numbers while the rabbits continue to proliferate. I have found out that, as I suspected, rabbits are not usually so numerous here and there’s no real reason for the recent influx mentioned in a previous post. The foxes are still about according to a neighbour, as are the buzzards – though I have not seen Buzz in his tree in a while. Hatching eggs I suppose. The ditches, all a-twitter with wrens and tits and robins, are green and bursting and the whitethorn has blossomed, its flowers like exploding popcorn. It is even on the wane already in some places while I am still awaiting for the tree out the back to take off. When I was younger I used to think of summer as a time where everything stays at its peak for the set number of weeks we call ‘The Summer’. Now I know that change is constant and even as I watch this peaking I see the other side of it – the green yellowing, the flowers wilting, the swallows gathering and going. Nothing is constant.

And down the road the change is even faster than I had thought it would be when I started this diary. Recent roadworks have caused traffic havoc, but now the new storm drains are in, the local council have published further plans to cater to the latest wave of housing. If all this building I am seeing was solving the problem of where to live I’d probably keep my silence – but somehow none of us can afford these houses. Since the Celtic Tiger, successive governments have pushed the house as an investment opportunity rather than a necessity, and buying-to-let has pushed prices up to ensure profits for global investors. There has not been a concurrent evolution in renters rights either. But I digress – if you want to read more, you could do worse than follow Rory Hearne, a local lad, on these issues https://www.thejournal.ie/readme/ireland-investment-housing-5428746-May2021/

Anyway, once this side of Tramore bay was more or less rural but since the eighties the red roofs have spread like a rash that is now tipping the edge of the little woods I have mentioned here before. From afar you can see the tops of the trees of Newtown Wood springing from the narrow glen that runs down to Newtown Cove. Off to the left and right of the woods stand two tall pine trees, perhaps the remnants of a once larger forest. Down in the glen, the trees are ivy covered and tall and fragile looking. An unlit road curves picturesquely through it as the leaves above shiver and coo and croak with pigeons and rooks and robins, coal tits, grey wagtails, magpies, gold crest and others, many of them feeding on the insects living in the cracked, old wall that edges the woods. In May it is carpeted with bluebells. In summer you might hear the creak of an owl and in the evening, at dusk, you will see for certain the little bats whirling about.

As yet I have only skimmed the plans for the woods but I do know that streetlighting is planned for the road along the wall beside it and it is likely that that wall will come down to make way for the planned cycle paths and pavements – which are no use to bats or owls and just as well as the light will see them off. It is unclear whether trees will be taken down – the language is typically oblique. And I imagine, as the houses have approached the wood, the street-lighting will soon enough make its way down the road that runs through it. Apparently there will somehow be a reduction in traffic but how this will happen when there are more houses than ever is beyond me. There is a four week consultation period – which started this week – and I will be making a contribution. I suggest if you care about these woods you do something too.

Here is the link to the plans https://waterfordcouncilnews.com/2022/05/17/active-travel-scheme-newtown-tramore-pedestrian-cyclist-scheme/

Watching the rabbits this evening, I thought again of that book Watership Down and how a superstitious person might take their curious proliferation in a place they were once so scarce as an omen. The book begins just before high summer. The rabbits notice a new sign near their warren as the sun sets red, the field seeming to run with blood, and they know it means something, perhaps even something bad, but do not forsee the scale of the destruction that will be very shortly visited upon them to make way for the houses of men.

National Drawing Day: If you’re in Waterford city today, Saturday May 21st, myself and my artist pal Julie Cusack are hosting a Drawing Day at Garter Lane Arts Centre in the Courtyard. Drop in (and drop out) any time between 11 am and 4pm for as much or as little time as suits you and try your hand at drawing or mark making to salsa music, or just for a look. All levels welcome. Free tea and coffee (and biscuits!)

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Coast Diary – April 23rd

Traffic out my way has gone (more) haywire as part of the road has been closed for a month to facilitate new storm drains, presumably for the new estate down the road. The old wall that runs beside a footpath lined with trees has been taken down as have some of the trees for access. And in nesting season too. I saw a pair of bullfinch in there one year, only the second time I have seen bullfinch in this area. I imagine the lovely old wall further down, the one that runs along Newtown Woods (New Town, how ironic), will be next to fall. The new (mindless) one way system has also been temporarily abandoned for the second time in months to add to the mayhem. All the cars from the housing estate are being redirected out by my house and they are all travelling at speed without regard to anyone along the road. An SUV changed course to drive straight at me to avoid another SUV one evening. I am not sure how I am still here. The choice between an SUV or ‘hedge monkey’ is no contest to some of those housing estate folk. I know because I grew up in one. A housing estate not an SUV…

But there’s good stuff too. We have been having some lovely dry weather with a bit of a chill in the air. I had a lovely walk on the main beach mid-week. There were not as many birds as there used to be in this Special Protected Area, possibly because of the the boom in dog walkers who allow their dogs to run wild here (insert more giving out with swears), but I saw geese and oystercatchers and a snowy egret. Best of all I found a horses tooth (pictured above).

Why would there be horse teeth on a beach? There used to be a race course behind the beach from 1785 to 1911. The land had been reclaimed and the sea held in check by an embankment from the mid 1800s, however this gave way in April 1911 and the race course flooded. The only lives lost were those of three puppies belonging to the local hunt. The racecourse was moved up the town to its current location. While you might not think a racecourse would also be a cemetery, there seems to be precedent for it. The bodies of three famous horses were exhumed at Hollywood Park, the once famous track in California, to make way for a housing development recently. I suppose it makes most sense to bury a horse where it falls, as must have happened more than once at Tramore.

I found a horse’s tooth on this beach many years ago and thought it belonged to some sort of sea monster. They are big, horse’s teeth. I was soon put right but the thought of a sea monster lingered. Then my tooth disappeared, stolen, I think, by another horse tooth appreciator. Now I have found another one, I feel I have some sort of closure. Laugh all you like but I take my consolations where I can. You can’t be depending on any of the big stuff to make you happy…

The new bird hide had its official opening this week too. An initiative of the industrious Tramore Eco Group it’s is situated overlooking the Back Strand on the small nature reserve that has evolved on the old town dump. The nature reserve has its issues with irresponsible dog walkers too, especially in nesting season, as does Fenor Bog out the road, but maybe, eventually, these people will wake up to the rights of others – both people and creatures – and their part in the continuing existence of all. If they do it will be down to those strong hearts in groups like Tramore Eco Group.

I saw my first swallows of the year out on an evening walk (me walking, not the swallows). It was April 20th so I am not setting any records at all – sure they are practically on their way back to Africa now!- the first ones were seen weeks ago and further north. Someone spotted a basking shark too, on one of the sunnier days, down off Kilfarrasy. Yesterday morning I walked down to another of the smaller beaches and paddled in the ice cold water. It was a lovely, grey morning i.e. it was quiet. I saw a lone whimbrel on the beach and sat and watched it until it was chased off. By a dog. Sigh. Then I walked the grey road home.

Coast Diary – April 15th

Fittingly enough, this Easter week, I have noticed a whole bunch of bunnies in the fields near the cliffs. Natural enough you might say, but rabbits were never plentiful around here – as far as I could see. There are stonechats and goldfinches, gulls, rooks, choughs, kestrels and the buzzard, but no badgers or owls and very few rabbits. Perhaps because its open to the south westerlies. The only mammal that seemed to hold steady here is the hare.

I have been afraid of mentioning the beautiful hares for fear of attracting raids from the coursing crowd. But there seems to be no hares left now. Only two years ago, some miles from here, a friend looked out her window one night and spotted a crew with lamps hunting hares for their meets. Then there’s the cats which are increasing with the influx of new builds.

I am very conflicted about cats. I am an instinctive cat person. But out in rural areas they can lay waste to the birds. And hares. The cat next door carried off two leverets a couple of years ago, one from right under my nose. And last year it got another one right outside my door – I heard its scream but was too late. It still makes me sick that I could nothing. This spring was the first time ever I did not see any mad hares in March. Perhaps keep your cats in as much as possible around the spring time?

But what goes around come around or, as they say, there are swings and there are roundabouts – and pointless one way systems, like the one recently put in place near here. Drivers coming to the nearby cove find they have to loop around and drive back into the town and back out another road to get there now (seriously-whose idea was that?). One of the results of this is an uptick in irritated drivers and an increasing number of local cats sent sailing into their tenth lives.

Buzz the buzzard could have been blamed for the decline in the hares too – apparently they take baby bunnies – but Buzz seems to have disappeared too. Moved on, got old, or shot, who knows but it may be one reason why the bunnies are proliferating. Another is that there doesn’t seem to be any foxes about this year. A vixen appeared with four cubs in the spring two years ago. I would watch them playing around their den on the cliffs and find bits of sea gull, remains of their marine style meals. But there’s no sign of them these days. I suspect someone got to them. They weren’t very well concealed.

Anyway, though I prefer the hare, I don’t mind watching bunnies. Watership Down was – and is – one of my favourite books. Lying in a ditch watching the rabbits at their evening ‘silflay’ and thinking about General Woundwort and the heroic Bigwig has its compensations. For now. There is one particular rabbit that has been in the same place a number of evenings in a row. I call it Hazel because I like to think it is just getting ready to leave its body in the ditch after a long and eventful life. But it’s more likely it has ‘the mixy’ – the white blindness – as Richard Adams called it. In that case the newly arrived bunnies may not have long to run.

On that cheerful note…Happy Easter everyone!

Coast Diary – April 9th

After a warm patch, its cold again this week with hail pelting down yesterday from the boiling cumulus between April showers. But there’s the palm tree I can see from my house and I am mesmerized by its spiky green leaves against the ultramarine blue of the sea. Over lockdown I tried – and failed to paint it – to convey those tropical palm tree vibes. As you can see, I am probably more suited to the hawthorn.

Growing up, I was entranced by the TV, by the children’s shows (Flipper), westerns (Bonanza), the comedies (The Brady Bunch, The Beverly Hillbillies) and the cop shows (CHiPs). Hollywood, California was a technicolour Utopia only reachable through the tube. I was in my 30’s before it occurred to me you could actually go to California in real life and in my 40s when I finally got there. And even though I realised it was a lot more real than you might think – where the desert meets the sea its often foggy and Santa Barbara can look like Ireland on certain days – I am still entranced by Americana, by motels, neon lights and freeways. So while some friends complain about invasive species on our shores, I quite love the ‘palm’ trees that are ubiquitous in the gardens of our coast. On a sunny day I am in LA, I am in technicolour, I am alive. Palm trees are to our gnarly, knuckled hawthorns bent under the weight of a history of servitude to the south westerlies, what Marilyn Monroe was to Peig – a promise of a bigger, better life, with no pain no tragedy…

So much for that, as Marilyn could tell us. Our palm trees aren’t palm trees, or even trees. The cordyline australis, cabbage palm or cabbage tree is a plant and native of New Zealand. It was popularized in Ireland in the early to mid 1800s, presumably in the posher gardens. They began to spread into the wild in the 1970s when they became popular with the burgeoning middle classes. And they continue to proliferate despite coming under threat during some of our colder winters. Perhaps they are at once Peig and Marilyn…

***

For any one in Waterford today, I am launching an illustrated book based on my South Russia blog at Garter Lane Theatre at 3pm. All Welcome.

References

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/palm-trees-in-ireland-36548780/

https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/homes-and-property/2.770/cordyline-crisis-hits-country-1.568415

Coast Diary – April 2nd

Out walking the other day I noticed a skip outside one of the last little cottages in the area. It’s occupant had died the previous week after a long illness. Her good neighbours could be seen in recent times going in to visit, or out walking her dog. Now she is gone and there is the possibility of the cottage being sold, rented or kept empty as a holiday home. The whole thing made me melancholy, not only that this lovely lady who had lived with her husband in their unassuming cottage overlooking the sea had left, but also what their departure emphasised – the accelerating creep of suburbia. Most of the houses here now are relatively modern but are modest compared to some of the newer builds which have settled like rotten teeth in the lower jaw of the coastal loop. Inexplicably it seems easier to get planning for two-storied ugly things the closer you are to the sea.

The most recent cottage to receive a makeover around here now has a shiny new roof and modern window frames. Not bad you might say but far worse is the collection of tightly packed structures dropped, seemingly at random, into the small plot which was once a shady habitat behind the cottage. Now, with the hawthorn around it cut back, the slanting black planes, unbroken by windows, redact the skyline. It’s cramped, dark angles, senselessly crowded into the small space, induces claustrophobia even walking past. But change is inevitable and I suppose those that came before mourned the new bungalows and those living in ditches despised the cottages when they were first built.

There are still one or two old cottages left, some green spaces fiercely protected. If you concentrate on them, and on the rumpled fields and headlands, the reddish brown cliffs, the wheeling birds, you can, imagine it as it once was before blow-ins like me took root. The cottages low and drifting smoke on the chill evenings as figures crossed the blue fields behind their cows. The road, then just a track where people stopped to swap tales or along which they hurried to borrow milk or share a catch of mackerel, or visit a sick neighbour. Some things don’t change. As the night closes in and the owls and badgers and foxes start their shift, the warm lights in the windows dim and go out one by one and beyond, barely visible but constant to the ear, the heaving sea.

***

Last week I rock-pooled and as those in the know, know, rockpooling is like heroin – for anoraks like me anyway. So I was at it again this week. This time also saw some Snakelock Anemones, below. Those chaps can’t retract their tentacles. Awkward. The ones I didn’t name last week (even further below) are Dahlia Anenomes.

Coast Diary – March 26th

The Church of Fergus…probably.

What weather we are having this week; clear blue skies and deliciously warm sun, a treat after an extra long, extra wet and dreary winter. So what if there’s a razor of chill in the air and a haze that lingers, especially near the coast. It only adds a sharpness to the taste of spring and layers the landscape in misty blues. Even if you have been working in the city all week like I have, this weather is balm for the soul. I have caught the tail end of some of these days, racing out the road to see the blue sea fade to white, the metal man’s pillars glow warmly before their familiar shapes dwindle into the dusk and everything is still and pinky-purple. What days for swims too in water smooth and silky yet viciously icy enough to wake hibernating innards. So I imagine but my blasted ear and its lingering, occasional stabbing pain – someone with a voodoo doll perhaps?- prevents me from taking the plunge for now.

Last Sunday I walked out for an hour or so on the narrow road parallel to the coast. I have heard it said around here that Cromwell’s army marched this way, most likely to Waterford from Dunhill (where they took that castle after an unfortunate incident involving beer – a lack of it believe it or not) although I remember looking for evidence of the route before and not finding any. I stopped at the old church on top of the hill going down to Kilfarrasy. It is a ruin and is on private land but you can just about see it over the spring-time ditch. This is the townland of Islandikane – once O’Kane’s Island, though it is not an island rather a headland – and it may possibly have been a possession of the Templar Knights but I can’t be be bothered checking. Kilfarrasy means Church of Fergus so perhaps that is the name of the church.

Then yesterday, Friday, a day off, was spent mostly pottering and putting the house to rights, a house thats somehow seems to upend itself when I am not in it. Is it possible I have a raft of giant toddler poltergeists? Still, I got a good walk in the evening, down to the nearest little beach. The smell of fresh cut grass mingled with the occasional hint of a turf fire and the primroses are peeking out. The daffodils are still with us, nodding or stretching earnestly towards the light. The hedgerows squeak and chirp and rustle with the busy shapes within. On the beach the tide was low and as the sun set I poked around some of the rock pools for anenomes. To my delight I not only spotted a common Beadlet Anenome, those jelly-like reddish, brown ones but a small, chubby, pale lavender Jewel Anenome as well as another small one I have not seen before and have not yet found a name for. I also spotted a small, deliciously spotty, Strawberry Anenome. Except perhaps for the Beadlet Anenome, these anenomes are not immediately visible so if you want to see them you need to crouch and crawl around the rocks. It’s a surprisingly soothing past time, teetering on slippy rocks, staring into what, initially anyway, seem to be dank pools. Disregarding how nerdish this may seem or the funny looks you get, you find, as with life, the closer you look the more treasure you see.

Coast Diary – March 12th & 19th

Wonky seagulls over Bride Street..

Though I was away for work last week, I was going to post something – a sketch of my runners on the edge of the tide as I took a paddle the night before leaving perhaps. Or the seagulls hovering in the blue sky above Bride Street in Dublin along with a rumination about how you are never really that far from a sea gull in Ireland. But I didn’t bother. And now another week has rolled around and, having been wrung out by Dublin, I have nothing. This, I only realised when I was down in Fenor Bog at sunset fruitlessly looking for frogs, something I do for no reason at all. ‘Perhaps I will see a frog‘, I thought and will write about that. But of course I did not. Like sea potatoes, frogs are masters at avoiding me. I did see a gang of long-tailed tits, the cutest of the tit family – seriously, can we not, like the Americans, call them chickadees? – and also happily noted a new, shiny, bright NO DOGS sign, which is unfortunately needed in this little nature reserve. My happiness was quenched in about 30 seconds with the appearance of a gormless girl walking her dog around the bog. You have to make an effort to get to this bog to walk your dog, so kudos to her for that I suppose…

In an effort to circumvent my rant gene (another fruitless exercise), I hightailed it to Kilfarrasy Beach where the sun had just slipped behind the horizon, leaving behind a yellowy pink blush in the cloudless sky that reminded me of peardops. Mmm, peardrops…A camper van, parked lengthways, had claimed the space against the wall overlooking the beach but I went to have a look out at the sea anyway. As I did the camper van couple in their private sunset seats between camper and wall came into view to my left. Awkward. We tried to ignore eachother but when I did glance their way the fella gave me a look. Perhaps my ‘resting bitch face’ gave them a look too – I can never tell what it’s doing – because they soon packed their chairs up and retreated inside. It must be so annoying when the general public wander around the public space you have comandeered for yourself and your mid-life crisis purchases.

The light faded and it got colder and I gave up and came home. Maybe I’ll find something to write about next week….

Coast Diary – March 5th

Very little coasting this week and lots of computery stuff and deadlines. I went for a walk on the main beach earlier in the week. I was hoping to be inspired for this week’s post but all I got was my ear infection rebooted. Well not entirely true. I also saw a dead, thick-lipped grey mullet being pecked at by seagulls, a part of a sea potato and some crushed crabs. The insides of their shells are always such pretty colours. Hardly a consolation to them I suppose. What good is a pretty house when you’re dead?

I had been expecting some dolphins or porpoises to wash up up after all the storms we’ve had but happily I hadn’t heard of any, or not in these parts at least. A young fin whale washed up in east Cork in an emaciated condition. Perhaps, after possibly being seperated from its mother? I heard of it first through an organisation who have recently started competing with the IWDG (Irish Whale & Dolphin Group) for the public’s ceteacean reports. It emerged a few years back that the IWDG’s research, which they were sharing online for free, was being sold on – I suppose to companies who do surveys for developers. The IWDG do consultation work themselves, it is part of how they fund themselves in their mission to campaign to make Irish territorial waters a whale and dolphin sanctuary.

The IWDG’s more detailed information is now, as far as I can see, harder to access. Perhaps others still want in on the consultation business though because I can see no other reason for setting up companies to collect information on our wildlife. It makes me wonder if we will end up with developments getting green lit on the basis of incomplete environmental information? These are entirely my own thoughts but I, for one, will continue making my reports through the IWDG alone.

Typically enough a report of a dead dolphin came in the day after my walk, on exactly the part of the beach I had been poking at dead crabs on, but by then I was too busy to go back and take tissue samples. My new colleague, an old friend who has just volunteered to help with strandings, will hopefully get to it.

The rest of the week was writing and working in the city. I finally got the best of my biggest deadline yesterday. When I arrived back on the coast after what looked to have been a beautiful day by the sea, I sat and watched the pink clouds shading to purple then grey in the robin’s egg blue sky over an impossibly blue sea, its intensity deepening before brightening and fading into dusk. I thought then I would write about how the telegraph wires and poles – which I once appreciated for their sketchy, swooping lines – now, in their continuing profusion, are dissecting my sea and sky into ever smaller slivers. But I didn’t. Not really.

Coast Diary – February 26th

There were some beautiful days out after the storms at the weekend, though a bit chilly and there was still a big swell going. I walked my usual loopy route a couple of times, down to the sea and back, saw the neighbour, saw Buzz in his tree, and the heron laboriously flapping his way from the main beach overland to one of the coves to the west and wondered what I am going to keep writing about for the rest of the year…

I was distracted from my pondering when, as I walked towards the emergency access point I mentioned last week, the one that runs down through the woods to the cove, I came across a car parked up right between the gate that said NO PARKING EMERGENCY ACCESS POINT and the sign that said NO PARKING EMERGENCY ACCESS POINT. The rest of the road was empty. The registration suggested the owners were ‘inlanders’.

There’s something about NO PARKING signs that seem to draw certain motorists like a beacon. It’s a huge problem at the beaches during the summer, cars parking for hours at a time blocking all access to the water, risking lives and….but there are many, many idiots in the world and there was no point ruining my walk so I continued on down to the cove where there were some swimmers about. Scanning the sea with binoculars in the hope of seeing some dolphins or whales, I became lost in looking at the horizon, the wind on the water, the current as the tide dropped, the birds flying back and forth or bobbing on the waves, the sun slanting to catch the white caps or illuminating the water an electric green here and there. There’s something of eternity about the sea as it stretches to meet the sky so, as I wandered back up through the woods, I composed a piece on the serenity the sea inspires for this week’s blog post. But. The car was still there. My serenity, accelerating from 0-60, took off.

I thought about snitching to the Garda Síochána* but they would be more likely to put me through the mill for disturbing their serenity. Don’t think its our ‘síochána’ they’re keen on protecting. I didn’t even consider posting on one of the Facebook community groups because anyone who posts there about bad parking- in disabled spaces or at the supermarket door (who are those ‘special’ people?!) – gets piled on by lazy idiot skanger trolls who write things like…

“That was me and I’ll f****** park where I like lol”

But there was no need for me to outsource my ire because before I had gone much further the driver of the car returned. A couple and a kid. The woman had been swimming. I waited until they were driving towards me and I stepped out and flagged them down.

I calmly told them that they had parked in an emergency access point. I said our search and rescue need those access points. I asked them to please not do it again and I said I hoped that they would never need the search and rescue services. This last was a lie because I was simultaneously picturing them all being carried out to sea on a burning raft. I believe I spoke calmy and neutrally but with my ‘resting bitch face’ and my articulacy, I have unknowingly frightened the bejasus out of people in the past so who knows?And who cares.

The guy took what I said with equamanity. He may have been one of those men who just hears ‘blahblahblah’ when a woman speaks. A possible reason for this was in the seat beside him where his partner, newly out of the swelling sea, looked like she would have few things to say to me once she had spat out the mouth full of lemons that she habitually chewed on. The salt water didn’t seem to be doing her any good anyway so, as she slammed her body back against her seat in irritation – and as a possible prelude to spitting lemons at me – I walked away.

Maybe they were having a bad day.

LOL.

Further up the road I ran into another neighbour, one of the group of women I used to swim with. She’s a veteran of many years. I asked her had she been in this week

No no, the tide’s not right at our time, and anyway the water’s still unsettled. I wouldn’t chance it.

She knows that anyone of us could get into trouble and need help, even the veterans. So even if you might not mind a few inlanders being carried off, it’s still best if we…

DON’T PARK IN THE F******* ACCESS POINTS!

Thank you.

No LOLS.

*An Garda Síochána is our police force here in Ireland and it translates as The Guardian of the Peace.

Coast Diary – February 19th

In the woods

It was a stormy week this week, though earlier on we had some blue skies. Out strolling I met a neighbour who always stops to chat. Recently we have both been bemoaning the increase in traffic – both on foot and in cars – due to lockdown and a temporary one way system that saw cars barrelling along the narrow road. All in a mad hurry to get from their swims down in the nearby cove back to civilisation I suppose. This time he told me ‘they’ will be tearing down an old wall that runs alongside the small woods before the road turns down to cove, in order to put in a footpath. However when I checked online I didn’t see any such plans so hopefully it’s just a rumour. Its a nice old wall and I know a footpath will depress me. Next it will be street lighting. And disco bars…the car park down at the cove is now like one on a saturday anyway.

The woods, which line the small glen that cuts down to the cove, are lovely, if a bit ragged now in early spring. Despite it only covering few of acres, there are beech trees, oak and poplar trees and I think horse chestnut too. In May the ground is carpeted with bluebells, in autumn the yellow and russet leaves spiral down to trim the path. There are the usual blue tits and robins, rooks and pigeons all about. There are wee goldcrest in there as well as coal tits too, if you stop and look for long enough. I once heard long-eared owls there, late in summer, the creaky call of their young sounding like an unoiled gate – but have never seen them. My neighbour told me that they are there still and I might see them as dusk comes on. I’d better get looking before the streetlights appear.

There’s an emergency access for the cove where a wide footpath splits off from the road and runs down through the woods. Beside the path, a river rushes over a series of tiny falls down to the stony cove at the sea’s edge. Until recently there were two wooden bridges spanning the stream, but they have now been replaced by one metal one. Locally the new bridge was seen as an ‘eyesore’ but I think its OK, probably safer too. And it’s been painted green, which helps. But I worry about the woods. The trees are tall and spindly, and, beset by ivy, they sway dangerously in the wind. Year on year I imagine they are thinning, that there are less and less of these rag-bag survivors from another era, hiding from the encroaching red roofs that can now be seen through the thin trunks up the side of the tiny glen. Maybe it’s my imagination.

Walking carefully back home – (I’ve been dizzy all week with an ear infection, which is why I have only taken you as far as the woods) – I saw the ‘Local Buzzard’ (Buzz) on a tree by the cliffs, his white breast shining in the sun. It wasn’t his usual hawthorn but as I watched he took off and flew low across the field towards me and swooped up to land in his thorny throne. Within seconds he was dive-bombed by a pair of hooded crows. You will often see buzzards picked on by crows. Their response is usually to move on, wings flapping heavily, like the large, plain child in the schoolyard, stumbling and bemused by the taunts of the more socially agile. Buzz took off, but for once he hesitated long enough to make a lunge at one of the crows before continuing on. It was gratifying to see. You’ve got to fight back.

Old wall and Homer Simpson Tree