The abandoned farm

I am reblogging this post from 2016 for the benefit of anyone who has followed my blog since it was originally posted. It is the third most popular photo post on my blog, and is viewed every day, without fail.


Ollie had to go to the Vet again today. Yet more treatment for the ongoing ear infections that just won’t seem to go away. As usual, he was very well-behaved, so I thought I would give him a longer walk, and go somewhere different. All the photos are large files, and can be clicked on for detail.

Crossing into Mill Lane, and taking the path through the fruit farm fields, we headed out in the direction of Gingerbread Corner, in warm afternoon sun. The fields have all been harvested, and only the plums await ripening and picking. We circled the edge of the wheat fields, all just stubble now, and used the small gap in the hedgerow to access the main road. Taking the shady path behind Gingerbread Cottages, we soon came to the old abandoned farm.

The story is that the farm belonged to two elderly brothers. When they…

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A very warm walk

I headed out with Ollie well before two today. With the clocks having gone back, it is almost dark by just after four, so our routine has had to change, at least until the end of March next year.

Earlier this week, they cut all the grass and plants down, on the centre of Beetley Meadows. This results in the whole area taking on the appearance of a flat field. Although many around here like this, I find it makes for a very dull walk. So, I headed off in the direction of Gingerbread Corner instead. I was dressed for anything, with big wellington boots to cope with the deep mud, and a long parka, in case it turned wet. Despite the sun and clear skies, I wasn’t about to take the weather for granted.

As often happens, I was soon uncomfortably hot. With the temperature approaching a very unseasonal 17 C degrees, and some very warm sunshine over by Goregate Farm, I realised too late that I should have worn much lighter clothing. Undaunted, we carried on, with Ollie enjoying rolling in the cool long grass next to the path, and lots of activity apparent in the surrounding fields. The farmers have been busy. The big field next to the pheasant hatchery has been replanted, and all the plum trees have been cut back, ready for the next fruiting season. Tractors were coming and going, with one being used to trim back the hedges that protect the pig farm from the wind.

I was surprised to discover that in the short time since I had been over there, the pig farm had been relocated. The vast area of tin huts that used to fill the space up to the Holt Road, is now an empty field. The pigs and their houses have been shifted across the path, to the double field in the western half. I know nothing about animal husbandry, but I am guessing that the soil might need a break from the intensity of pig farming, after all the years that they have been in the same place.

Up to the next two fields, and we found even more pigs. Ollie usually snuffles around the edges of these, looking for rabbits in the verges. On this occasion, I called him back, in case he upset the pigs by getting too close. Once at Gingerbread Corner, I rested in the shade of the wooded area, cooling down for a while by sitting on my favorite tree stump. Ollie scurried around, convinced he could hear squirrels. I knew that they were just wood pigeons, but I left him to it anyway.

By the time we got back to the Meadows, the sun was almost setting. Ollie jumped into the river, to cool off and have a drink. When we finally arrived home, I was still too hot, and glad to remove all my heavy clothes and footwear. Just after five, I heard the first small groups of children out trick or treating once it had got dark. We don’t put an illuminated pumpkin outside our house, so never get bothered by them.

One of the country traditions I like the best.

A walk with the camera

As it is Sunday, I decided to take the longer walk with Ollie, from Beetley Meadows, to Gingerbread Corner. I have described this walk many times before, so this time, I thought I would take my camera along, and illustrate it with some photos instead. Leaving the house on a warm and sunny afternoon, my plans were soon confounded, by a change in the weather. A freshening wind arrived, blowing in some dark clouds, and ruining what had been excellent light. I decided to take the photos anyway.

We left by the shortcut, at the side of the Fakenham Road bridge. This iron and stone structure has seen better days, and I felt it suited a B+W photograph.


Crossing the road into Mill Lane, we headed up the path. It is always dark along there, whatever the weather, as it is heavily shaded by trees.


Ollie hasn’t got used to the camera yet, and every time he sees me get ready to take a shot, he tends to stand very close. You can see how a recent moult has left him with a variety of colours on his fur. it will be a while before he returns to a uniform brown all over.


Where the path opens out, it goes through the large estate of Goregate Farm. This old farm machinery has been left to rust, presumably unwanted. It might be good for a B+W shot, but I wanted to show the nice rust colour. I sometimes sit on this on the return journey, but I had very light shorts on today.


The plum orchards seem to be neglected. The branches can be seen heavy with ripening fruit, but there has been no weeding between the rows, and some trees appear to be in need of pruning.


Arriving at the huge pig farm, there was little activity to be seen. Most of the occupants of the small huts seemed to be fast asleep, with just the odd pig’s head peeping out to watch us.


Further on, we could see a large combine harvester working in the field bordering Holt Road. You can see the dust created, billowing at the back of the machine. Just a few weeks ago, Ollie was chasing rabbits in the green shoots of these crops, and now they are on the way to market. It still feels strange to think that this is only a short distance from where we live. Makes me feel very ‘rural.’


Before arriving at Gingerbread Corner, we have to walk thorough another section of dark woodland. Ollie likes to look for squirrels here, and as I photographed my favourite tree stump, he was scanning the leaf litter for furry friends.


Arriving at end of the walk, I took this shot of Gingerbread Cottage, which gives the corner its name. We now had to turn around, and reverse our steps. Two hours and fifteen minutes out in the fresh air, and despite five insect bites, we both had a good time.


I have used smaller files, on advice from Jude. You are still be able to click to enlarge, and despite choosing a smaller size in the edit process, they are still quite big! But I am not so happy with them today, as I was struggling for good light the whole time. I hope that you enjoyed being able to put an image to what I have previously described in words.

A perfect day?

I have just returned from a long walk with Ollie. We trudged for over two and a half hours, but it was not a chore. That was because we enjoyed the most perfect weather, more like a summer afternoon than early spring. It was easily warmer than 60F, and the breeze that was just enough to blow the smallest branches felt refreshing and welcome. Enlivened by these unexpected conditions, we ventured across the Holt Road, far behind Gingerbread Corner.

Near the derelict farm, Ollie spotted two young Muntjac deer and took off after them, in playful pursuit. I wandered off in the general direction, but became concerned when I couldn’t see him anywhere. The track took me along behind some new houses, and I finally found him. He was standing by a small gate. It was too tight for him to squeeze through, and a little too high for him to jump, but no doubt the deer had cleared it with ease. He looked at me expectantly, hoping that they would soon return, and he would be able to chase them again.

I continued alongside a ploughed field, heavy going in the ruts left by tractor tyres. The sun was on my back, and I felt hot in my lightest coat. This was probably due to wearing heavy boots and thick socks. If it hadn’t been for the lingering mud, I could easily have got away with wearing shorts and summer shoes. We crossed back to the track behind the huge pig farm. Some of the sows had tiny piglets running around their legs, and they were irresistibly cute. I tried not to think about the bacon sandwich that I had earlier cooked for breakfast. Ollie scanned the verges for rabbits, occasionally fooled by a startled crow, or pigeon.

Once back on familiar ground at Beetley Meadows, I had to keep him on the lead. He had a shampoo and nail trim yesterday, and his coat is looking great. He smells good too, though that won’t last. I didn’t want him to do his usual plunge into the river, and get all muddy and wet.
At least not for a couple of days yet.

Sometimes, you happen upon the perfect weather combination. Hot enough for shorts, but not too hot. A gentle breeze, not a cold wind. A blue sky that isn’t too bright, and a fresh feel to the air that makes you feel good to be alive. I would like to be able to choose that kind of day at will, and say, ‘another day like that please’. Today was such a day. Quite perfect.

A bearable rain

Weather forecasters rarely fail to predict bad weather with some accuracy. Their track record on good weather is less impressive, but when they say it is going to rain, it usually does.  After the warmest and driest September on record, at least in Norfolk, the anticipation of a day of heavy rain served almost as a novelty. After all my moaning about precipitation in the past, I agree that this seems to be contrary on my part. However, even an old weather-grumbler like me accepts that rain is necessary at times.

For once, I was well prepared. Even so, I left Ollie’s walk as late as possible, in the hope that the downpour might subside. He is a good dog, and endured the delay in his usual walking time without complaint. By 3 pm, I could make him wait no longer, and resolved to head out into the torrents. I wore my waterproof jacket, waterproof over-trousers, and the unfortunately unsuitable cap, that I save for such conditions. I finished this attractive ensemble with my rubber boots, giving them their first outing for a while, as they had spent the summer snug in the shed outside.

After two circuits around Beetley Meadows, I had seen none of Ollie’s playmates, or anyone else for that matter. I had pretty much expected this, as many locals are fair-weather walkers only. I headed off across Fakenham Road, into Mill Lane, and in the direction of the pig farms. The rain was hammering down, but seemed less bothersome as I was dressed for it. As always, Ollie paid it no mind, and carried on as he always does, regardless of conditions. After only a few hours, the water had already brought out the greens from the other autumn colours. All the bushes and crops seemed lush and refreshed, though the dry fields had failed to cope with draining the excess, and water was running freely onto the surrounding paths and roads.

One benefit of the rain was that there were no annoying insects to bother us. It did attract a large number of small frogs though. They hopped across the path in front of us as we walked, no doubt heading for the water-filled ditches either side. Few rabbits braved the weather, though Ollie found two to chase. Likewise the squirrels, probably sheltering in the high branches, their absence noted by my increasingly frustrated dog. Some damp crows were the only birds seen, hopping around the pig pens, scavenging scraps. As for the pigs, they were oblivious to the conditions, though cooler weather was making them more active. Various porcine squabbles broke out, and at times it seemed that the loudest squeal settled the argument.

By the time we got to Gingerbread Corner, the cars on the main road outside were having to use their headlights. The low cloud and dull conditions made it feel much later than it was. Inside the large stand of high trees, huge raindrops fell onto my head with some force. At least I was relatively dry. The rain had got in under the collar of my coat, despite fastening it tightly. However, other than damp shoulders on a t-shirt, I had no complaints. Retracing our steps, we returned to Beetley Meadows just after 5 pm. Despite continuing rain, a bright sunset was beginning to light the sky in the west. We had walked for over two hours in heavy rain, and were pleased to see home approaching.

But it was a bearable rain.

Autumn comes to Beetley

Despite the unseasonal weather, (it was 24 C here today) it is more than obvious that Autumn has arrived. I spent a fair amount of time this week collecting the first fall of leaves and twigs from the oaks, as well as attempting to shift some of the many acorns. Another good few hours were spent trimming the leylandii hedges that shelter two sides of the garden. I had neglected them last year, and paid the penalty for this, with hard work. Standing some ten feet high, and almost five feet deep, this is not a job to be tackled lightly, or in bad weather. Most of the difficult bits have to be got at from the top rung of a ladder, with almost all of my body at full stretch, perched precariously on the bulk of the hedge, as I reach across. The thickest branches had to be dealt with by sawing, and each remainder would have made an acceptable Christmas Tree, for an average room. The unexpectedly good weather allowed me to get on with this job, which I could no longer put off. The end result is a satisfyingly neat double row of hedge, and more light allowed into the gardens of the neighbouring houses. I also have the scars to show battle was done, with marks from twigs, the strange redness of an allergic reaction to the pine needles, and muscles aching all over my legs and wrists.

It is getting foggy in the mornings, and dark earlier. By 7.30 in the evening, our lights are on, and by 8, it is completely black outside. The fields nearby are being ploughed, and at times the smell of the manure, and other fertilisers, is all-pervasive between here and Dereham. The leaves are turning; gold before brown, some pale and lifeless. Walking with Ollie today in the afternoon heat, we wandered in the direction of Gingerbread Corner. The vast acres of blackcurrant bushes have now been harvested; the fruit that was rejected by the farmer now fought over by hundreds of starlings. They in turn are mobbed by dozens of crows, swooping down from high nests in the Poplars lining the Holt Road, their cry of ‘caw-caw’ building to an unpleasant cacophony. Squirrels are much in evidence, rapidly gathering nuts to store against the coming winter. So many are scurrying around, Ollie is unsure which one to chase first, and just stands and cries in frustration.

Once at the plum orchards, lack of rainfall, and the cessation of watering by the farmer, shows in the remaining crop. This time of year normally sees many unpicked plums still hanging in plump clusters on the short trees. Today, all that was visible were hundreds of shrivelled and blackened fruits, dehydrated and dead on their stalks. A little further on, there is a pleasant area left fallow this year, home to attractive wildflowers, and recently, scores of sunflowers; not cultivated, just growing randomly. Their huge yellow heads, with the dark centres of seeds, helped to brighten a familiar walk. On inspection this afternoon, they have lost petals, the seeds are dry, and the heads are beginning to droop down, as if the flower is sad, or unwell.

This summer of mixed blessings will soon be just a memory. Clear nights, cold winds from the north, Halloween, Bonfire Night, and other seasonal festivities will replace the joy of light evenings, and wide-open windows. Autumn is here.

A Rural Appreciation

Last Friday, I had occasion to go to Wymondham. This is an attractive market town, and lies south-east of Dereham, about sixteen miles. I was not going to see the nice part of the town, as I had to visit one of the industrial estates on the outskirts. My mission was to purchase some parts for the wood burner chimney assembly, in the hope of finally solving the problems we have had with it since installation.

It was a lovely day. Blue skies, and unseasonal warmth that allowed me to wear shorts. It was nice enough to lower the car window and I set off, listening to a local station on the radio.  Once I had left Dereham, traffic was negligible. Heading out through Yaxham, past Yaxham Waters Holiday Park, I was surrounded by farms and fields, and with speed limits rarely more than fifty, I was able to take in the scenery, and enjoy the drive. I had chosen to take the winding ‘B’ road, and for much of the journey, I saw few other cars. I quickly passed through the small villages of Whinburgh, Garvestone, and Thuxton, some little more than hamlets. They must have problems with speeding traffic though, as there were many signs, stating ‘SLOW DOWN-CHILDREN PLAYING’, or ‘PLEASE DRIVE SLOWLY THROUGH OUR VILLAGE’.

Making the turn at the delightful village of Kimberley, I passed under old railway bridges, reminding me of a time when this area was better-served with local trains. Further on, I could see an enormous lorry coming towards me, on a very narrow stretch of road. We were not going to be able to pass easily, so I pulled into a farm gate recess, and flashed my lights, to tell him he should go first. As he slowed to pass me, he made sure that I could see his wave of appreciation, seconded by a hearty blast on his vehicle’s horn. This small incident could only happen in a place like this. Back in London, we would both have carried on, seeing who gave in first, or passing within a whisker, teeth gritted. On the last stretch of winding road before arriving at Wymondham, I reflected once again that I actually lived in this pleasant place. I wasn’t just visiting, this is where I dwell, and these are the places that I drive through.

On that sunny morning, with a sixteen mile trip accomplished, stress-free, in under thirty minutes, that was a good feeling.

This afternoon, still plagued by the back pain that I wrote about earlier this week, I was of a mind to have another decent walk with Ollie. Once on the move, as long as I don’t stand still too long, and get a few sit-downs along the way, it is manageable. I headed off on the familiar route, away from the meadow, and towards the large pig-farm. The sun was warm on the exposed areas near the blackcurrant orchards. These small bushes do not shield you from the elements, and provide no shade. The light breeze was amplified by the longs stands of trees fringing the fields. If you closed your eyes, you might believe that it was the sound of water rushing by, and not many leaves rustling. I noticed an unusual amount of red and black butterflies. They lifted from the path in advance of my footfall, their wings intertwining with those of others, as they flew off towards the bushes. I was also aware of the number of bees around. Not only workers busy on the beds of violet-coloured weeds in the verges, but huge bumblebees, as noisy as tiny motorcycles, and as big as my thumbprint.

Approaching the tin sheds of the open-air pig farm, I looked for the appealing gangs of piglets. They are older now, and though still tiny, were preoccupying themselves with bothering the huge sows for milk. If they failed to get their own mother to rise from her slumbers, they scuttled off to bother another sow, being told off with smacks from a large snout. The farmer has bulldozed a veritable mountain of manure into one area, forming a construction similar to the compounds seen on the news in Afghanistan. The last rains have left a fetid lake inside this mound, and the combination of this, and the smell from the manure, has attracted a lot of small flies. I decided to push on, to the Rabbit Field, so Ollie could try to chase some bunnies. It was not living up to its name today though. No long-eared residents were visible, and I saw a bird of prey hovering above, which no doubt accounted for their absence. I decided to cross the Holt Road, and revisit a walk from last summer.

It proved to be a good decision. Entering the path behind Gingerbread Corner, at the rear of the pretty cottage that gives the junction its name, we soon saw lots of rabbits, both in the woodland, and on the fields to the left. Ollie was off, chasing enthusiastically, oblivious to the couple in the parked car, who had no doubt sought romantic seclusion. No sooner had Ollie lost the trail of one rabbit, another appeared, and he was off again. Around the bend in the path, we came across the ‘deserted’ farm. This group of buildings around a substantial farmhouse appear to have been abandoned. The barn roof is almost gone, and weeds grown inside the store-rooms. An old broken bath and toilet are dumped unceremoniously just inside the small barn, and the nearby field seems, to my untrained eye at least, to be untended. There are signs that someone might still live there though. Broken glass in a lean-to has been boarded with wood, and the grass on the drive approaching the house has been cut short. In two of the upper windows, curtains are fitted, and the wheelie bin contains refuse for collection. I cannot imagine living in such style, in a house and land with so much potential.

I crossed the small country road, and took the path south-east, towards the back of Dereham, and the cemetery. This is overgrown, but has a good flat walkway, and I can cover a lot of ground this way. Ollie stopped for a drink at a remarkably clear-looking puddle, and we continued on to the end. The next option would have been to cross a busier road, and pick up the path across fields, to Swanton Morley. But we had been out a long time, and still had to retrace all our steps. By the time we got back, Ollie was hot and tired, and I was weary. We had walked around seven miles, in just under three hours. Allowing for a couple of stops, and a lot of contemplation, I didn’t think that was at all bad. In all that time, I only saw one other person, but lots of birds and insects, dozens of rabbits, and one very happy dog.

I must conclude that a rural life is a good one, and I really do appreciate it.


A Windy Walk

Saturday didn’t start too well. On a routine trip to the shed, to get a fresh light bulb, I noticed that almost half of the floor was under water, once again. Presumably, the recent torrential rain has raised the level of the ground water, and it is finding its way inside, though it is impossible to work out how. This meant a complete evacuation of all the stuff stored out there, to gain access to the floor, so as to be able to ascertain the extent of the small flood. Sodden cardboard packaging had to be thrown out, and numerous things re-packaged, in plastic containers that will resist the worst of the water. Many items had to be found a place in the adjacent garage, which is now almost full, with only a narrow access passage left.

Once the space had been cleared, the mopping up process could begin, using any old towels, dust sheets, and paper. When the area was dry again, I resolved not to put anything back there that could be damaged, so a complete sort out was necessary. I know that this is insignificant, when compared to the devastation caused by severe floods in the South-West of the UK, but when it is in your shed, and causing a nuisance, it still seems like a big deal. After almost two hours of this chore, it was time to get ready to take Ollie out, for his later than usual walk. I decided to reward his patience, with a walk along the Wensum Way, to the back of the large pig farms, and around the plum orchards.

After ploughing through some muddy paths in Mill Lane, we emerged into the large area of open fields, home to a large plantation of recently pruned blackcurrant bushes. It was here that I discovered a new ‘enemy’ of the dog walker. Wind. Not a breeze, you understand, nor even something described as ‘blustery’, or ‘windy’. This was serious wind, a north-westerly coming at us like the back-draft of a jet engine. Flattening my long parka against my body, and whipping up stones and twigs, which clattered into and around me, as if hurled by some unseen poltergeist. Forward movement felt constrained, as if wading through deep water, and my eyes were soon streaming too. Turning my back for a brief respite, I felt that it would almost support my weight, if I leaned into it.

Ollie was oblivious, as he usually is. No extremes of weather ever seem to faze him, and his demeanour is the same, whether in torrential rain, or thick snow. If he noticed this wind, he certainly didn’t display any reaction to it, and carried on looking for rabbits, peeing up bushes, and trotting around, as if on a mission, only known to him. When he got thirsty, he took a drink from one of the pond-like puddles, and he ran on far ahead, sometimes looking back, to check that I was still there. When we reached the pigs, they sauntered over to the fence, no doubt hoping that I was a farm employee, bringing them more food. They all lined up to look directly at me, as their huge ears point forwards, and shade their peripheral vision, like blinkers on a horse.

When we finally arrived at Gingerbread Corner, I took the opportunity of a break. There is a large copse of tall trees, and they stop the wind from having the same effect that it enjoys across the open fields. Retracing the route towards home, I at least had the wind in my back, and this made walking much easier. I arrived home, pleased to be away from the constant buffeting. One hundred minutes seemed so much longer, when it was hard to hear yourself think, and each step felt like I was wearing diving boots. I am looking forward to a time of less extremes, ‘normal’ days, windy, or otherwise. The good walks will return, their time is just around the corner.