Category Archives: Everyday Life

The Vole & The Compost Heap

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The other evening Adam brought me a gift – rather like a cat, he came to the back door with a look of delight and a small mammal.

This beautiful little chap had been uncovered when Adam was tending to the compost heap. He must have disturbed a nest, he didn’t realise until he was raking it out and the chickens were having a rummage. Worried that this tiny mite would become a chicken snack, he picked him up.

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We follow the rule that you do not disturb nature, and you let nature take it’s course (since I was involved in the terrible dove and hawk incident of 2011). But as we had disturbed nature, and there was no sign of his family, we felt it was right for us to take care of him.

The consensus is that he is a vole. I called him Claude – it wasn’t intentional.

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I turned to my facebook friends for help, and they were amazing! Mickey is a lover and saver of animals, and a taxidermist. She advised us on what, when and how to feed him. Emma, my other taxidermist friend (I swear I only know two!) gave us the details of a fairly local Wildlife Hospital.

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I fed Claude and he zonked out, so much so that I thought I had killed him. I was sad. Adam went to look and found him snoring away, he was okay, well fed and sleeping. Relief!

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We called the Wildlife Hospital and Dinah, the lady who runs it, told us we could bring him over right away. She prepared a box and a heat pad for his arrival. We wrapped him up in a cake box and wood shavings.

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We found the hospital, dropped him off andÂ… hang on a minute – there were deer in the dining room! Two beautiful little deer. They were like little dogs, kind of like whippets, they liked a good fuss, chewed my hand and licked Adam’s legs. Then, THEN, Dinah asked if we’d like to meet the sheep that they’d rescued and rehabilitatedÂ… erm, yes! She opened the door and called, ‘Harry! Harry!’ and this huge big dollop rounded the corner at speed, lolloping along with a slightly crazed expression on his lovely big face, I am sure he was smiling! He was massive. Massive. And he liked a fuss and a rub too!

It was really incredible to meet these wonderful animals, and Dinah, who is so kind and caring to them all. I have to go back there. I need to hang out with the animals.

I’m waiting to hear back and find out if little Claude has survived, I have my fingers and eyes crossed.

I Went for a Walk in the Woods with an Owl

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At the weekend we visited Rutland Falconry Centre at Burley Bushes near Oakham to hang out with the birds. It’s a really lovely place, quite basic, but marvellous, and set in fabulous woodlands. I think they have around 160 birds there.

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I’d signed us both up for a bird handling experience, and I had lured Adam by telling him it was called Hawk vs Owl. A bit like bird Tekken. Obviously he didn’t believe me, but he went along with it.

At the centre we wandered around and had a look at many of the beautiful owls before gathering with the others who were all there to handle the birds too. We were given the option of ‘Hawk or Owl?’ Adam picked a Harris Hawk, so I asked for a chubby owl.

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Adam’s hawk was called Harry, and he belonged to one of the experts at the centre, Ed. Harry was lovely, with his little worried face, pointy sharp beak and bright yellow feet.

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My chubby new friend was a Bengal Eagle Owl, called Roxy. She was absolutely stunning. Her breath smelt of wet dog.

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The feathers around her eyes formed the most beautiful criss-cross pattern, her markings were incredible and her feet were soft and furry.

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We introduced ourselves to our birds and sat with them for a bit so that they could get familiar with us. Then we went for a walk in the woods.

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I cannot explain how magical it is to walk through the trees, smelling the damp earth and the rain on the leaves, hearing nothing at all apart from your footsteps, carrying the most magnificent bird on your arm.

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I was in awe. I made a little Instagram video – you have to see it. I’ve watched it about fifty times. It makes me gleeful!

We walked up to the Flying Field where we sat down and listened to Ed talk about each of the birds, giving us a background on them, as well as more information about the centre and the conservation work they do.

Then it was bird petting time. One of the owls was so gentle that when the lady carrying him felt her arm was getting tired, she tucked him in towards her chest and he rested his head over her shoulder, before he was lulled to sleep!

What about Roxy? No, not Roxy. Roxy isn’t into being stroked or cuddled. Every time I showed her my hand she hissed at me! It made me like her even more.

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We walked back through the woods and surrendered our birds.

When Hannah came to take Roxy away from me, she very kindly put her gloved hand out for Roxy to bite so that I could sneak a quick stroke of her soft owl chest.

And then I thought, ‘it doesn’t look like it hurts to be bitten by her!’ so I asked if it was okay for me to let her bite my ungloved hand. It was clunky, it didn’t hurt.

Hannah said I was ‘the first weirdo to do that!’ and that generally people were too scared of Roxy, but I was just curious, and it all turned out okay (not like the time I got bitten by a bat, but that’s another story!)

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Adam seemed quite endeared by Harry as he sat stroking his silky brown feathers. Harry didn’t have quite as much love for Adam though.

We all gathered together again and followed Ed and Harry up to the Flying Field where we all had the chance to fly Harry and feed him. When it came to Adam’s turn Harry didn’t want to come back for his day-old chicks leg. Adam thought it was because he recognised him. Harry had to be lured with a whole chicken.

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We had the most amazing time, I would go back there right now if I could, and I really recommend a visit to anyone who loves birds, trees and/or peace and quiet.

It’s £6 for adults to go and have a look around, or £65 per person for a Hawk or Owl walk. It’s definitely worth phoning ahead and booking, and it’s worth asking if they have an special offers or events on.

Give Anne or Chris a call on 07778 152 814, they don’t have a landline at the centre as they are too remote (cool hey?!)

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship – Abingdon (Round 5)

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I am a child inside. I dream I will wake up one day and suddenly be an awesome racing driver. Today was not the day!

After an average nights sleep at The Upper Reaches, where I dreamt of bad breakfast buffets and Tunnocks caramel wafers, we ate our acceptable breakfast and headed off to the Abingdon CARnival.

The CARnival is an annual charity Motorsport event, which amongst other things, includes a sprint. Abingdon was different to other events I’ve done, because there were two tracks to be driven in the day, and the best times from each were aggregated to produce our overall competing time. There were hundreds of cars there, from Jedi’s, Sylvas and Westfields, to TVR’s, Porsches and Alfas. There was also a Vauxhall Nova.

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We started off on the Bentley course, and within moments the rain had started to fall. My first practice run wasn’t so bad, it kind of put me in the middle of the pack, but that was the highlight of my day really! I queued up for my second practice, but was told I was too early, so I had to re-queue. When I next got to the front of the queue the rain was coming down so hard that they decided to suspend the event. We took shelter in Duncan’s trailer. There was a nice lady in there reading a book. I ate a flapjack and watched the river of rain wash by.

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Eventually, and amazingly, the sun came out and the water started to disperse. Part of the course had to be changed due to a large puddle, so we were allowed another practice run to see these changes. I had hoped I might get another run, because other drivers had been able to get out three times, and although I’d queued up four times, I’d only been out twice! The rain had held us up too much, and the next run was the first timed run. I was 0.5 seconds behind the next car, but still last. Then the gap widdened as I made a mistake with the brakes on run two, putting myself almost 1.5 seconds behind the next driver, and still last!

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After lunch we moved over onto the Abingdon course. This was by far my favourite of the two, which surprised me, as looking at the maps before I left I really thought I’d like the Bentley more. I enjoyed it, but I was slow! I ended up 3.5 seconds behind the next driver.

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After the times were aggregated I ended up with 117.91, just over 5 seconds behind the next driver, and positioned 11 out of 11 in my class.

On a plus side though, I wasn’t the slowest driver out there on the day – overall I placed 106 out of 130 cars that completed both courses (some retired, so they don’t get counted) and I really enjoyed myself.

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I have to keep reminding myself that I have never seen or driven these tracks before, and I am competing against drivers who have already ‘been there’ and ‘done that’. A lot of people attend track days between events so that they can get practice in, and I guess that makes a lot of difference too. I’m always too busy cuddling cats and chasing chickens!

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On Sunday I got a message from Lynne (wife of another driver, and motivator of me too!) to say that the Motors TV programme with us all in, was now on YouTube and to have a look! We were away in Prague when it was on tele, and I really wanted to see it, so I was very excited, and ta da! Here it is! Go on, have a look! The Speed Championships part starts at 43.45 – that’s me waving my map around, and my car is number 11 – you’ll spot it, it’s the one that’s going the wrong way!