The animals continue their quiet take over of our realm, though their boldness grows daily. Under cover of the long grasses in the meadow leading down to the lake, an insurgency of alarming proportions is under way. In the mild winters, the rabbits no longer need to burrow, so their young are streetwise from the start. They hang about chewing weed with flagrant disregard of farmer or passing tourist. To the north of the fileds, where a prime heap of muck was gradually worked to the ground last year, the grass is shorter, but lush and fat. This is quality dope to these teenage long ears. You might think it would be enough to satisfy their cravings for sensation, but not a bit of it. They have set their sights on the herb garden to the south. This is the ˜hard stuff” of the plant world, so it is well guarded with stone walls and wire fencing across the old sheep gate. The rabbits can break through defences of this sort on their own, so they’ve enlisted help. From the north a clear and determined track has appeared through the waving grass of the meadow. The wooden sills and posts of the gate are under attack from that JCB of earth movers, the badger. Old Brock has no business of his own down here, so he evidently been persuaded by these layabouts to show the gang what he’s capable of. It’s most unfortunate.
Meanwhile, after months of harassment from mother swallow, and her rather embarrassed husband (who, after all, did choose to build his nest just inches from the lintel of our door and then scream at us every time we went in or out), the young have fledged. Having tiptoed in and out for so long, and been dive bombed by a screeching mum, it’s a relief to go by without getting an earful, albeit that we now have to wade knee deep through guano. The kids do come back to the nest in the evening or during the persistent downpours of this lamentable summer, but we feel sorry for them. They now seem to be the ones getting the earful. I fear they’ll go the way of the rabbits and become bolshy. Come September mum will be trying to get them lined up for that old tradition – family Chritmas in Morocco. But they’ll be unimpressed with the thought of 3,000 miles of sweating it out trying to work out where they are by sun and stars – all that trigonometry and parental chiding – and nothing but foreign bugs and dust storms at the end of it. They’rere clearly already discussing the benefits of Sat Nav, GPS and i-phones with the in-crowd at the north end. Maybe our Christmas card will have a swallow on it this year!