On Christmas Eve the Brampton Carol Singers abandoned their warm cottages in order to sing their way around the village. The choir of nine sang innumerable carols on their three hours tour and due to the generosity of villagers raised a £165 in favour of their chosen charity, Quidenham Children’s Hospice (part of East Anglian Children’s Hospices or EACH) Grateful thanks to all of you who were generous and hospitable during the evening. The evening ended with a short service at St Peter’s Church at which the now well-rehearsed Carols were given a further airing.
Carol singing 2013
December dawn, with Rooks
As we approach the shortest day, the morning and evening flights from and to the rookery become more noticeable. Numbers are down as the flocks have somewhat dispersed but the slow and noisy trail of wind-tossed Rooks and Jackdaws across dramatic and often stormy dawn skies is worth a pause and a look.
The start of Christmas in the village
Candles were lit as Christmas Carols returned to Brampton Church at the village carol service on a windy 15th December. Lesson readers drawn from all ages took us steadily through the nativity story. The Vicar, The Rev.Fergus Capie, added to the atmosphere of contemplation amidst celebration with a carefully judged meditation upon the real meaning of Christmas. Joyce Vincent, formerly of Low Farm, who was for so many years the Church Warden of Brampton Church, was a very welcome addition to the congregation. Mulled wine warmed the congregation after the service of lessons and carols. We felt set up and ready for the coming season.
Hunger in the hedgerows
Two Sundays before Christmas. Food in the hedgerows is in short supply. I hear news that a hungry fox has cleared out a hen house at Spratt’s Green. It is certainly at this point in time that the thrushes turn to the Hawthorn berries. Until now they have studiously avoided the bitter red pippy berry, but as we walk along the railway line we follow a cloud of Fieldfares and other thrushes as they work the hedge. They chatter and chortle as we arrive. Then move away as a flock, circle in our wake and settle to their task. Goldfinches and Linnets concentrate upon whatever they can glean along the margins. Survival has become the key as the period of plenty has ended.
Woken at 2 in the morning, the shrill cries of a vixen echoed around the valley. She made her way at some speed along the railway line, calling regularly until the distance and wind swallowed the noise.
Now the breeze is northerly. The branches sway at the change in direction and Birch leaves rain gently down on the garden with every gust. The village lanes are strewn with the leaves of Sycamore. Hazel and Wych Elm. The Field Maples, which have taken on a glowing chrome yellow, are slowly losing their fight to keep their leaves. On the railway line the Poplars are already bare, their wind note has changed in pitch and the sweet smell of leaf decay scents the air.
As I stack wood – the most Autumnal of tasks – a ragged skein of geese head towards the coast; at least one hundred strong. I watch and listen for a minute or two. The cut logs give off their scent of sap and resin. Indoors, the plaintive notes of French Horn from a Britten Pastoral adds to the Autumnal feel.
The moon, which was full on Sunday, rises at around seven in the evening with its fiery orange colour reflected on the coastal shower clouds. At first we mistake the glow on the horizon for a distant house fire but she reveals herself as she gains height. The steady cold light of Jupiter accompanies her.
The ground frost lingers after dawn. On mornings such as these, deer venture out of their woodland cover in search of fresh-thawed grass. I am being watched by a Roe doe as the dogs and I follow the railway line. She stands still in the lee of the old hedge; only as light movement of her head and the twitch of her ears as she monitors us. No need for flight, she is confident in her distance from us and the proximity of the haven of Keeper’s Wood. She is still there after we turn around and head for home.
Further on a Muntjac Deer adopts a different tactic as it crosses our path, its ungainly pig-like run following a straight-ish path to the wood. The Barn Owl does not waste energy in a hunting flight this morning, but perches hunched on a fence post, but patiently watching.
The landscape of the parish continues to evolve. The felling of a plantation of Bryant & May Poplars at Oxnead during the last few months appeared drastic at first sight. But when such moves are planned, on this occasion within a conservation Stewardship scheme, they are to be welcomed. The site will be returned to grazing meadow. The impact is most felt in the opening up of the vista – viewed from the west the raised route of the River Bure has become more marked, a glimpse of the grounds of the Hall and the revealing of the ditches which once served the Paston’s stew ponds are apparent. Perhaps we can imagine the opening up of at least part of the Deer Park which once surrounded the wider site of Oxnead Hall. The Deer park itself can be traced as a ghosts of the field boundaries that remain towards Buxton, that is if you ignore the scar of the nineteenth century railway lines and later boundary changes.
Evenings in late September are the prime time for bat walks. This evening the old railway line was teeming with them. Pipistrelles patrolling the well-treed sectors with their tightly turning acrobatics. Often many in sight and, with the help of a bat detector, in sound at the same time. They have favourite areas and stick to them and on occasion briefly chase one another. We walk and listen.