Sunday 7 February 2010

Winter Windowland

The Tense team have been on a winter break in deepest darkest Shropshire.

More by good luck than good management, for our post-Christmas chill, we often experience a week of sub-zero temperatures for snowy walks and picturesque frosty vistas. But we weren’t too hopeful this year, what with all the arctic conditions over the festive period, and therefore reluctantly assumed that we’d had our cold spell for the winter.

Not so. For to arrive at the rented cottage, we had to drive up an icy tarmac’d lane, across a pot-holed farm yard and then down an even narrower, snow-covered track. Game on!

This particular cottage is a converted barn, nestled near the top of a valley close to Wenlock Edge. The bedrooms/bathroom are downstairs and the kitchen/diner and lounge are upstairs, with a large window looking out down the valley.

No phone signal, no street lights, no traffic. Just peace and quiet, if you don’t mind birdsong, and we certainly don’t.

Sally soon settled herself on the sofa, staring out of the window at the owners’ chickens and piglets, scratching and snuffling their way through the snow, looking for tasty morsels. And so began PigWatch! Not quite so unpredictable as the BBC’s [insert name of season]Watch, but with a variety of birds drawn towards whatever the livestock unearthed.

As the light began to fade, a male Bullfinch perched on the Buddleia bush beside the window, which afforded rather pleasing, close up views of this shy bird.

Then, as the sun set, wrens began to appear and gather in a communal roost under the eaves of the cottage. As this was effectively the corner of the lounge, we could hear them settling down for the night, chuntering to each other about various topical troglodytical issues and, presumably, how things used to be better in the old days. “ Cave? Call this a cave? In my day…etc.” In the decreasing light but with the snow giving a white background, we were able to pick out the little feathered missiles arriving, and counted at least 18 individuals approaching from the 180ยบ arc visible to us.

Flitting from the surrounding shrubs onto the window ledges and the lapped pine walls of the cottage, it was like a scene from The Birds but as filmed by Beatrix Potter, not Alfred Hitchcock. Inspection of the eaves from ground level the following morning, revealed several old House Martin nests and a few small gaps, certainly sufficient for a tiny bird to squeeze through.

As Sal pointed out, with her genetically-inflicted punning ability, “This is a wren-ted cottage, after all.”

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