Happy New Year

My camera is out of action at the moment, but to celebrate the New Year, here's a cracking picture that someone else took...

The last week has been total chaos. Why anyone would ever consider moving house is a total mystery to me – Incessant trips to and from my old cottage have worn down the patience of my friends, family and pets so that I now feel like a broken man. Perhaps one of the most galling things about moving house is that, unlike any other work of a similar nature, there are no congratulations or thanks for moving your own gubbins. House warming feels like an unlikely prospect when the new abode is chilled and damp after having been unoccupied for three months. Constant fires in all fire places have gone some way towards warming up the old stone, but while the wet patches on the walls have noticeably diminished, the overall air is still a little too far towards the “moist”.

On the plus side, the new house overlooks a large loch (wriggling with brown trout), and the bedroom windows look up into the thick heather of a recovering grouse moor. Although I haven’t seen any yet, greyhens use the willow scrub behind the garden and a small lek takes place just a dog walk away. It is a fantastic spot, and scoop the puppy is already feeling well at home. She flushed three snipe from the hill above the house yesterday morning in the frost, and although she wasn’t entirely sure what had happened, it bodes well for the future.

Up on the hill, the wildlife appears to be taking advantage of the mild, wet winter. My favourite blackcock has returned a fortnight early to his usual patch, and he now spends the day paddling around the farm buildings looking for mischief. From what I can gather, the foxes are getting on with their breeding seasons, so I need to draw a line under my house movements and get up there after them. I’m now just a mile away from the Chayne, so regular visits are easier than ever.

It’s still very early stages for my project on the hill, but if all goes according to plan, 2012 will see me breeding grey partridges and black grouse in captivity, resurrecting an experimental patch of arable land and building new berry hedgerows. In addition, and with great excitement from my perspective, my book on the natural history of black grouse is due to be published in August…

Thanks to everyone who has visited this blog (almost 18,000 visits last year!) and stay tuned for more!

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