AS I climb awkwardly through the fence, because I don’t bend as well as I used to, I reflect that there are so many different ways of looking at the same stretch of land.
A small group of beef calves is huddled by the tumbledown wall, sheltering from the sharp wind which belies the look of a sunny spring day.
If I were alone, they would barely notice me, but I have a dog, and cattle like to chase dogs. The dog would not dream of chasing the cattle, and she is fast enough to run to safety, but I prefer not to be in the company of excited bovines, even quite small ones.
Two come up, bouncing and huffing: the school bullies. I point my stick at the shoulder of the leading calf, and it understands at once, moving calmly away.
The other considers getting better acquainted but, in response to my obdurate stick, follows his chum. The dog has retreated out of sight, and we resume our reconnaissance.
This land is new to me, and I have been asked to help with the rabbits. Therefore I need to walk around, looking for rabbits and other wildlife, where they live, where they are likely to run to when disturbed.
The sun catches the long narrow paths where the rabbits have run through the grass, generation after generation using the identical routes.
If there were no livestock, one could put wires down to catch the running rabbits, but although snares work well, I prefer other methods, and in any case, there are cattle, though only a small group which should not bother us on subsequent visits as long as we keep out of sight.
They appear to have full access to all the fields, so I will need to check each time where they are.
Ferreting is over for the season, but I can start again in the autumn if the myxomatosis doesn’t beat me to the rabbits. However, the farmer needs help now, for rabbits can do a lot of damage between now and the turn of the year. This grass is for making hay or silage, and for raising beef, not rabbits.
Here is barbed wire rolled up in a ditch, where it could injure a dog that does not know it is there, but I show it to her and she should remember.
The hedges are sprawling thorn, blackthorn chiefly but with hawthorn, bramble and briar too. Within and without, barbed wire rambles along the hedge, one, two or three strands as the broken posts dictate.
Here and there between the hedges is a cattle-crossing, puddled and rutted by big cleft hooves.
In high summer, the mud will dry into big furrows and crests which could break the toes of a fast dog, but just now the ground is still soft enough. Rabbits live in the hedgerows all along, and here is a fox earth, newly pulled out.
The dog inhales deeply and slants her eyes at me. Probably a newly cubbed-down vixen in there, and she will move her cubs in a few weeks, as they usually do.
Up the hill lie the old pigsties which are now showing service as an equipment and rubble storage area, too risky to run a dog such as mine anywhere near, for the rabbits will make straight for it.
We turn along the top hedge, which abuts a footpath, and note that it seems well-used, before taking the line of the next hedge which straddles a group of fallen trees.
These are providing useful habitat for all manner of creatures, and no doubt the rabbits will run and hide there too.
The land is not safe for shooting or snaring, the time is not right for ferreting but that will come, the footpath is too close and the land too open for trapping, which leaves the dogs as the best choice for rabbit control.
This time of year, dogs such as mine can do a useful job on the rabbits, but as the ground gets harder, we need smaller dogs and more of them.
Terriers will be the tykes to bring, and by then, the vixen will be long gone. I wonder where she will move to, and mean to find out while I am here.