Ruby stands waiting. The gin and the bird-books are packed. W has joined me, and she and I are off tomorrow to Herefordshire for ten days’ communing with nature. Avid readers of this blog will have to curb their impatience. If we happen upon somewhere where there’s wi-fi, then having a laptop with us I’ll report from the front, as it were. But that part of the country, that transitional area through which runs the border between England and Wales is probably as rural as you can get in this funny little island so I hold out little hope of that.
There’s something extraordinarily freeing knowing that all you have to do (assuming you have the time off work) is pack the food cupboard in Ruby, turn on her fridge, pack some clothes and a few books and you can take off, self-contained, to wherever the fit takes you. You are constrained by neither bus nor train timetable, nor the destinations to which either of those services run. Stick a pin in the map of the UK – or of anywhere else in the world for that matter – and that’s where you’re going. And certainly in the UK, you’ll find some form of campsite with a mains electricity hook-up within just a few miles of wherever you’ve stuck your pin. And the prices for staying overnight – per pitch, not per person! – including electricity are a fraction of what you’d pay for even a very modest hotel room. Then the following morning you wake up to the singing of the birds and the sighing of the wind in the trees.
You might also wake up of course to the sound of the rain beating down on Ruby’s roof. But although this country has acquired something of a reputation – especially among US citizens – for rain, the rain here is very seldom really prolonged and heavy. I know from shepherding my two youngest sons, when they were quite small, on a series of Easter holidays around Cornwall, that with a bit of imagination and persistence, there’s seldom a time when the vagaries of the English weather stop you doing at least something enjoyable.
Sadly for us, there are no sites in Hereforshire run by the RSPB – the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds – of which we are members. But not too far away to the west are the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons of Wales. There, a wonderful avian raptor – the red kite – has been re-introduced. A common scavenger on the streets of London in days long gone by, they were persecuted out of existence in the UK. But their come-back in Wales – (and also in a number of other parts of this country) – which is not to every Welsh sheep farmer’s joy and delight – has been very successful. I’ve seen them in India, swooping and tumbling – they’re great aerial acrobats – among the high-rise buildings of Mumbai, but I’ve yet to see one here in my own homeland – assuming the Welsh would allow me to include part of their bit of this plot of land in ‘my homeland’.
So au revoir London. Ruby and Herefordshire await. And as has been said before – I’ll be back.