A CONFLICT OF NATURE & URBINISATION
Recently we have enjoyed some wonderful cold, crisp mornings at Lavant which have been just breathtakingly beautiful. It is spellbinding when Nature decorates this place at her best during the changing seasons; such as the spectacular sunsets we witness and which could easily give the Northern Lights a run for their money.
We are also blessed with a wide range of bird species joining us throughout the year. I hope those of you who are here just before sunset (when we are open that is) enjoy the “murder of crows” that takes place above us, noisily and spectacularly – they haven’t the slightest interest in us lot on the ground, which somehow makes this avian behaviour even more special. They used to fly directly from our Bluebell Woods across to the trees in the old school, but this behaviour has changed with so many trees removed and those remaining dying; so now they fly from our Bluebell Woods to the oaks near our house instead. These wonderful, noisy and exuberant creatures never fail to make me stop in my tracks, look up and watch this incredible display of nature. It certainly makes you feel small and insignificant in the scheme of things. This constant, wonderful reminder we have all of this wildlife living in our periphery, and which still catches me by surprise, almost on a daily basis, even though I have lived in the countryside all my life.
This week we spotted what we thought were a pair of Sparrowhawks joining us, however when one landed close-to on the arena fence the distinctive chestnut brown back made me realise these must be Kestrels, and if so, this is the first time they have honoured us with their presence this far south.
My team don’t quite get why I am always so captivated by birds of prey. They are unaware that it is only during the past twenty-odd years or so that these species have rewilded around us, having been pretty much wiped out by changing land management priorities following the Second World War. To see them now is always a reminder of how all wildlife has a right to be here as much as we do, and they sure bring a lot more pleasure to us than I suspect we do to them.
HEROS & HORSES
Let’s move onto something a lot jollier. I had an interesting experience earlier this week, if I really want to call it that. Last Sunday both of our loos backed up. It was discovered that the drainage pipes serving both the loos had become blocked, no need to explain what with. So my husband Tony and Georgia’s other half Henry, manfully rolled up their sleeves, whipped out the drainage rods and positioned themselves at either end of several meters of rammed pipe. Tony positioned himself just outside my office, being the end of the pipe before disappearing into the septic tank. After a good hour or two of grunting and swearing, Tony finally triumphantly yelled: “The solids are coming through!” at which point I fled …….
Moving onto horses we have finally found a really great and consistent horse supplier in Ireland. Over the past decades the majority of our horse have come from Ireland and prior Covid this necessitated visiting Ireland frequently and having a gruelling two-day process of looking at horses. I’ve never been one interested in buying a horse sight-unseen, but Covid forced my hand and finding a consistently trustworthy, knowledgeable supplier had to be sourced.
We discovered Johnny when were in Ireland at the Go-for-Gold Sale in 2018, looking for a competition horse rather than something for our school. Johnny had a beautifully produced four-year-old mare whom his family had also bred, but she ended up going for serious money, certainly well outside of our pay scale. However on chatting to him we discovered his sister also had a riding school – so my ears pricked up. Here was a guy who knew a good horse, knew how to produce them and would understand what was needed for a riding school.
These horses don’t come cheap but with the time and leg-work Johnny is saving us, plus the reduction in mistakes that happen, no matter how knowledgeable you may be, the investment cost in these new horses is starting to pan out. We had a few hic-ups to start with, but Johnny swapped them for more suitable animals and we have been absolutely delighted with everything sent over ever since.
End of December we received Pluto; a nicely balanced dapple-grey Connie-x, 15hh, 6-year-old gelding who will fill out into something quite handsome.
PLAN – IF YOU CAN
You will probably notice I am doing my best not to talk about the pandemic and how it has affected us. We will get by; we are luckier than most as we have so many truly dedicated and loyal clients. However it has proven harder to run this business during 2020 and now 2021 than at any other time prior. There has been no let-up for me with the constant changes we have to encompass and have to be made with very little notice; however this is as it should be if we are to keep faith that the Government are doing their best to keep us all as safe as is possible.
Any change, when dealing with the numbers we do have here, always proves to be a labour of love. For example this last lockdown took me an entire week to work out how everyone who was allowed to be here could do so, and safely under the latest Covid containment measures. Whilst it is human nature to resist change, it was a relief to discover that for the fourth time (three lockdowns and another where the Rule of Six stepped in) my people proved they were all old hands at this game now and just went with the flow.
This time however the Covid is seriously scary for all us in the South-East, where we have been previously lucky enough to be in one of the lowest infection areas in GB. Consequently we have had to step up processes to avoid transference and this, I have to admit is emotionally draining as it is so not who we are. However what possible right do I have to moan when we are so blessed to be outside, in such a lovely rural location, nestling at the foot of the Southdowns? Let us all keep welcoming our burgeoning wildlife back into the countryside environment providing they are not scared off by the constant mechanical intrusion which is now what we have to endure, living and working in this specific part of the Southdowns National Park.
Stay safe everyone, and my goodness, do I really, really mean it this time. 2021 has entered with a bit of a bang, so let’s just all hope it is going to calm down a bit now – cup half full and all that. Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope it had some interest for you if you have stuck with me so far ……… The two As’ are probably having kittens with some of the stuff mentioned, but why would you bother reading this if controversy wasn’t included? However, just bear in mind, encouragement is probably not a good idea.