Rabbits lay low all day as haymaking takes place ...

As I stop to close the double gates, I look up at a pall of smoke hanging in the air, and for a moment I can’t think what it could mean.

Then I realise: of course! All around, people have been dropping grass in an urgent schedule of getting the hay in, much later than any first cut should be, though a late cut is better than none.

The smoke and dust belong to the haymaking process; the fallen hay is long-stemmed from extra growing time, largely cast of its seeds by now, waiting in ragged windrows for turning. Barley has been cut in most areas at last: it is not often that haymaking and harvest overlap like this.

But for a brief spell, the weather allows, and contractors are under great pressure to perform two tasks in the time allowed for one.

Farm machinery working hard and fast to make up time does not need any superfluous hazards to avoid, but it is too warm to leave a dog in a vehicle, and I need to go round and check my traps, which are luckily sited well away from the great crushing wheels.

Normally, the dog relishes this patrol as a chance to push rabbits out of undergrowth, a sort of census opportunity for me, to see if I am getting on top of the population.

This time of year, with the cover high, nettles standing like sentinels over every warren, brambles languidly catching at feet or clothes, we can only pick away at the rabbits, but once the hay is down I can be of more use. Or rather the dog can. But not right now.

There is a place just here where I can get through onto the neighbouring land, where I am also welcome, and see my traps from there, not in the way of the contractor, so that is where the dog and I go.

Twenty minutes later we are back, having caught nothing this time, but with a plan in mind for tonight.

Rabbits will have lain low all day, and will be coming out to feed as soon as the noise of the machinery has gone away, and there is less than half the field to be worked yet.

Although the contractor will be going straight on to another job on a different farm, and probably working well into the night, he should be away from here before dusk, which would be just the right timing for me to return.

The dog would like to explore now, and looks at me quizzically, understanding nothing of the dangers inherent in farm machinery, nor in running in the heat.

Though it is teatime, temperatures are more seasonal than they have been, and it needs to be cooler if a dog is to run safely.

So back in the vehicle we go, through the gates with a brief stop either side to open and close, and along down the track past the farmhouse, to leave word that we intend to be back later.

And it is as well that I do so, for it seems that people are coming to shoot this evening instead, so I have to miss this opportunity at the rabbits.

Therefore I change my tactics and ask if the very early morning would be possible instead: it is, and might even offer a perfectly adequate opportunity.

Or at least an interesting walk round. Certainly it will be cooler for the dog, and although I shall have to get up very early indeed, it won’t be for the first time.

Foxglove