Earlier this week, on a beautiful January morning, I was looking out for things on my way to work I could include in my letter. I waved goodbye to Martin, (who had kindly scraped my frosty windscreen - he likes doing it, strange creature!) after pointing out to him the winter jasmine just beginning to unfurl its delicate small yellow flowers in a neighbour’s front garden. As I drove through Speldhurst I spotted daffodils blooming, and then in Poundhurst Lane the first primroses peeping out from a bank which, in a few weeks’ time, will be carpeted with them. At Penshurst the meadow between old stone bridges crossing two rivers at its edges, had flooded, and driving past Penshurst Place I saw some of the black-faced sheep had tiny new lambs. There were glossy crows high up in the trees at Chiddingstone Causeway church-yard surveying their demesne, and in the old orchard at Bough Beech reservoir I saw, and heard, robins and blue-tits. The birds always sing up when the sun shines. The birdwatchers’ board reported that over 250 fieldfare had been spotted in the last week.
At lunch time I strolled up the hill to see what stage the bluebell wood had reached in this mild winter (the snowdrops have been out for some time), and noticed clumps of their thick green leaves were already pushing through the dead leaves, and wild honeysuckle is flaming into leaf along the hedgerows.
In all this bucolic splendour I finally met with a large Landrover and trailer which screeched to a halt in front of me at the gate to a muddy field. Out popped half a dozen men with shotguns, flat caps, and eager spaniels. As I walked past I saw more people inside the trailer, a sort of Anderson shelter on wheels with benches inside. On the back of the trailer hung a bunch of dead pheasants. They all (the people, that is) looked very jolly. Pheasant-shooting seems a sad kind of sport to me ... going out into the country and killing birds that are famously rather slow and stupid and stand little chance of getting away, bred specifically so that people can have a day in the country and kill large numbers of them? Sorry, I just don’t get that... I feel bad enough if I run into one on the road.
I recently came across, on my way home in the dark, a young deer which had been hit by a car that had failed to stop. It sat in the middle of the road, blood seeping from its nostrils, unable to get up - I guessed its back or legs were broken. A helpful young man stopped and moved the deer to the side of the road under some trees so that it wouldn’t get hit again. I drove to the house of a vet I knew lived nearby. Sadly he was away, so I drove home and got on the internet to seek help. The RSPCA will come out to an injured wild creature, but you must have the animal in sight when you call, as many will crawl away before an inspector gets there, which is therefore a waste of precious resources for a hard-pressed charity. Martin kindly came out and sat in the car with me for two hours until an RSPCA worker reached the scene. She had been on call since early morning and drove 40 miles to get to us as soon as she’d finished an earlier call out (this was now about 10pm). She said that she would give the deer an injection and put it out of its misery, that this was necessary due of its severe injury and because a wild deer can only tolerate about half an hour’s travelling in a vehicle before receiving treatment, because the stress of being handled is too much for their nervous temperaments. She said it would only have lived so long after the initial impact because it was quiet and on its own in the dark. I’ve got the number on my mobile now, so if this ever happens again I can act immediately. In the meantime we’ll be making a contribution to the RSPCA to help with their compassionate work.
So, there you have it, plenty of news to tell my Mum.