The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Thursday, 15 January 2009

A Good Turn, A Stoat, A Rabbit And The Missing Secateurs

I went ‘equipped’ this morning as I set out for my shuffle around the block. Concealed in the pouch pocket of my Paramo was a pair of secateurs. I had had enough of spiky things on the overgrown track grabbing at me and at having to duck and weave my way through, so I thought it was time that I did a good turn to others who may want to walk that way and clear a path through.

Half an hour was spent merrily clipping (all the time looking over my shoulder for an angry farmer approaching wanting to know why I was pruning on his land) until I was happy that someone of around my height can now walk straight along, standing tall and without being grabbed by brambles and the like from the side.

Gardening wasn’t the sole purpose of my outing, so on I continued through fields and across a couple of roads. At the boundary to the Estate it struck me that my figure-of-eight would see me passing the same point later in my walk and thus there was no need to have a pair of pruners hitting me in the chest for the entire time, so I popped them into some undergrowth with the intention of picking them back up about an hour later as I passed back by.

(In the unlikely even that you’re reading Kay, stop now! You’ll not like what’s coming next)

Along I bimbled uneventfully until, just into the return leg, I saw a rabbit running across the field in front of me – a marginally unusual sight at this time of year, but not unusual in the grand scheme of things. It was only when the rabbit reached the hedge that I realised that it was being chased.

No sooner had it run into the hedge than it ran back out again, and this time headed straight for me. I stood stock still to watch what would unfold and a few moments later the rabbit passed about a foot away from me with a definite look of “Oh shit! Help me” in its eyes.

Moments later, past came the stoat that was chasing it, throwing me a quick glance in passing (and if I’m not mistaken it also licked its lips…).

Onwards down the field they ran, with the rabbit opening up a reasonable gap between the two of them. Then it made its fatal mistake – it turned and started running back towards me (once again seemingly heading directly for me).

It was within three feet of me when the stoat succeeded in its aim. There was a bit of screaming from the rabbit, but as soon as the stoat had it by the back of the neck the rabbit did what came naturally to it: it played dead.

I stood there, amazed that all of this was passing off in the middle of a field and so incredibly close to me. Then the stoat let go, the rabbit jumped back to life and started to squeal and kick out for its life, and a further tussle ensued. The stoat won.

Deciding it was time to move on and leave the stoat to its kill I was a tad worried that my movement might scare it off. As I slunk away it did peer at me over the now dead rabbit (this time it was grinning and looking jolly smug as it licked its lips).

I do hope that the stoat managed to move the rabbit (and this was a full sized rabbit, not a little bunny) before one of the local kestrels or buzzards came along and made lunch of the stoat, or before a dog walker came along and disturbed it.

On my way I went, battling with the mud up the hill and then down the hill, then I was on estate tracks.

Back at the place where I had left the secateurs I bent to pick them back up – and couldn’t believe it when I found that someone had nicked off with them!

In the four and a quarter miles that I walked I saw one horse rider and not even the hint of another person, and based on such typical quietness I hadn’t made any particular effort to really hide the pruners, because I really didn’t expect anyone to even pass them, never mind to notice them sticking out of the undergrowth and pick them up. That’ll learn me!

I didn’t take the intended short route home from there. Instead I thought that I would mourn the loss of my secateurs by walking back along the overgrown track to check out my handy work. I made it through without a single snagging and without any slaps around the face by a piece of hawthorn.


  1. You are NEVER, EVER alone!!!!!

  2. Ooh, what an interesting encounter! How amazing.