27 April 2008

As I stood on New Inn bridge yesterday watching the olives hatching and the trout snatching them I got to pondering the changing seasons here that bring these marvels and I thought how much our rural lives are marked out by the natural calendar.  There is the call of the first curlew and plover in late winter, the arrival of the swallows in spring, the hatching of the duck and swans and the myriad of other natural events that mark out the turning of the years. 

But above all here spring is determined by the arrival of new lambs.  It's always a source of wonder to me that a creature that spends so much of it's life quietly contemplating life, the universe and everything can have such capacity for energetic play in the first few weeks of its life.  Sheep are great thinkers.  They don't do much with the thoughts mind you, but they spend so long just sitting thinking that most world problems could be solved by sheep if they could summon up the energy to be bothered.

Lambs are a different matter entirely.  They act rather than think and there is a pattern to their actions that seems to be repeated down the generations even though there is no apparent contact between the lambs of one generation and another.

Below my kitchen window are two large pastures running down to the river.  These fields are divided by a wall at right angles to the river and early each April David brings his ewes and twin lambs down to these fields.  Within a few days, year after year, the lambs begin the same game.  We call it the Lamb Derby since it involves virtually every lamb in the field forming a gang and charging en mass along the wall towards the river.  At the bend in the wall the mob screeches to a halt, turns and charges back up towards the house. Each event is celebrated by a great deal of jumping about, almost like teenagers punching the air in celebration. Eventually the smarter characters work out that if you hang back a bit just before the turn you can be in front on the charge back and win the race.

It's the same game every year without fail, but the ewes are not involved so it must be some natural instinct that encourages crop after crop of lambs to play the same game.

It's good fishing weather this morning, warm and cloudy with very light spring rain and no wind at all.  If you don't mind a bit of damp the results should be rewarding on both tarn and river.


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