"I have had a very busy week with two events and I competed at Towerlands as well. I also had lessons with John Thelwall prior to Towerlands and we worked on my turns, approaches and position. We also took Imp (Impulsive) to pracitise XC afterwards – I think I have finally found a bit that he likes and which doesn't interfere with his mouth, teeth, cheeks and tongue! A 'danger' bit, which locks so it won't put pressure on the tongue and therefore is not uncomfortable and so he won't bite his cheeks; this coupled with a pricker pad on the right hand side (as he gets strong on this rein) makes a very happy Imp!
Kenny and Beanie (Breeze IV) went galloping to the links in preparation for Ligniere and/or Boekelo. Both feel fit and well.
I took five horses with me to Towerlands; Brian (Opposition Express) who had just the first fence down in the Discovery – his first one! Imp jumped four clear rounds, as did Beanie (two in the foxhunter); Amber (Red Amber) had just a time fault in the Foxhunter and Kenny a fence in the same class and also one in the 1.30m too. A good day!
We went to Purston Manor on Thursday with Imp and Amber. Amber was quite fresh having not been to an event for a while and was quite bright in her test; she jumped a lovely double clear for 8th though. Imp performed a beautiful test, scoring the best mark in the section; show jumped clear but had a spook at the water and sadly the judges gave me two stops (no idea how they arrived at that decision) but I felt it wasn't worth discussing as I'd already not won! I schooled Beanie at the event who is making big progress very quickly…
I had one day at home then left for Allerton park with five horses: Imp, Ken, Amber, Beanie and Romeo (Romeo Z). They were all in the Intermediate. It was well worth the three-hour drive as the ground was fantastic and the course was lovely but definitely not a first-time Intermediate! I never intended to run Kenny as he had just come back from Germany - I must admit though I was tempted as he performed a very good test and clear SJ; in fact they all did well and in five rounds I only had the first down on Amber.
All were in good positions before the XC. Beanie went first and was flying round until he misjudged a step into water and literally did the splits – he went right down, belly in the water and amazingly kept me on board. It was evident immediately that he was not right and he was taken back in the horse ambulance. This really upset me as it is the first time that this has ever happened to me (I've been incredibly fortunate) but I did find it hard leaving him with the vet and riding the others. Romeo was superb and jumped clear and Amber was phenomenal but had a glance off. I decided not to run Imp as the course wasn't very straightforward and he needs confidence. I returned home with my very poorly horse and I'm dreading the results of the x-rays…"
"Last weekend saw us at Powderham Castle in Devon, to avoid the traffic we left at 4am. We arrived at Powderham just as day broke and because for once we had made excellent time we had to wait outside the park before being escorted onto the showground.
Powderham is situated right alongside the Exe estuary, watching the sun rise over the water was just amazing, add to this the deer park that was full of over testosteroned fallow bucks, and this place was a wildlife spectacular. We watched as the bucks gradually rose from their overnight sleeping places in amongst the marsh grass. They stretched for a while before thrashing around in the grass with their magnificent antlers, this served to give them what looked like a massive grass birds nest on top of their heads. Once the nest completely covers their heads and eyes they tip their heads back, noses high in the air, and repeatedly let out a deep grunt. As each buck strutted his stuff as a fellow male I’m fairly sure he was thinking, “damn I look good.”
Now I’m sure that to another buck this looks pretty awesome but the hinds were doing their very best to keep away from these idiots that had so much grass on their heads and testosterone coursing through their blood that they could neither see where they were going or tell which planet they were on. Ahhh, the things us males get up to just to impress the girls!
Anyway, quite often people have problems where they own two or more dogs. Having two obviously has all sorts of benefits but can often lead to or encourage problems. Two dogs are far more confident than one - straying, hunting and aggression can become a much greater problem if the dogs forms an allegianc - a mini pack.
I had a very interesting discussion with a lady over the weekend concerning some retrieving problems that she was having with a three year old Labrador bitch. In short the lady owned two dogs, the one in question and a seven year old bitch. The dogs had been allowed to run for the same retrieve and the older bitch was charging the youngster off the retrieve to ensure that she got it. The interesting bit was that this dominance was then influencing the youngster when taken for training sessions on her own. The lady found that if she picked up her training bag with both dogs present the older bitch would straight away start to show dominance over the three year old.
In spite of the older bitch being left indoors whilst training, the youngster would still avoid going for a retrieve. The lady discovered that if she separated the two well before showing signs of training sessions then the youngster would now retrieve.
Now this is not rocket science or earth shattering news, but it does show how easy it is to inadvertently create problems when living with dogs. For owners of companion dogs this would probably not be of any real consequence but for Gundog trainers this reluctance to retrieve around an older dog could make life difficult.
Manage your dogs even during play, excessive dominance can have effects in other areas. Everything should be in moderation; watch, listen and observe your dogs, there is a load of stuff to learn.
By the way a big 'thank you' to all of the people who come to talk to us through H&C and at shows -Your experiences, advice and knowledge continues to enthrall us and of course we are the lucky ones as we get to hear all of this wonderful dog stuff!
PS. Dexter our Battersea Staffy has just climbed up onto our Gundog Accessories display and helped himself to a great big duck dummy: “Hey Dad look what I found, it’s really cool.” I can’t ever imagine being without dogs!"
"Sarah had a week off from work and, bless her, she chose to use it fishing. Love for me or love for the sport? I’ll let you decide.
But what great fun she enjoyed. Her first dace. Her first minnow(!) But best of all, her first grayling (on the float, see below), her first sea bass (on the lure), and her first barbel – touch legering - and a bite followed by a fight to pull her arms off.
In fact, memories galore. Had the weather not have been so sweet to us, we’d probably have gone abroad and missed some of the most fantastic of memories. The only time we had a cross word was when she lost what was evidently her biggest barbel. The bad news for me was that this happened just after I’d tightened up her clutch! Why couldn’t have kept my fiddling fingers to myself? A smaller fish soon afterwards softened the blow but I suspect I’ll never quite be forgiven.
In short, you sometimes just forget what a smashing, accessible, adrenaline pumping sport fishing can be, at whatever level you want to enjoy it.
The Glory of Grayling
I guess grayling must be just about our most unsung, least understood species. And, as far as I’m concerned, they’re just about our most beautiful.
Grayling are really game fish but because they spawn in the coarse fish season, they are treated as a bit of a crossover. Trout anglers view them with suspicion and so do the coarse boys.
In truth, you can catch grayling any method you like – fly, trotting or even on a little feeder. But the best thing about grayling is the waters they inhabit. Beautiful rivers like the Wye, the Dove, the Wessex chalkstreams, the Welsh Dee, the Tweed and the Tummel north of the border...grayling just don’t do anywhere that isn’t beautiful.
Still, that’s what you’d expect from a fish that is probably our most delicately, artistically attractive of them all. Look at that gorgeous fan-like dorsal, those sleek lines, those shifting, seductive colours and it’s no wonder that they are called the ‘Lady of the Stream.’
Every now and again, even in the UK, you see a fish that takes your breath away. Such was the case with my friend Dave’s mammoth, forty-two pound, seven ounce carp, just a few days back.
Now, in Britain, any forty pounder is still a massive, colossal achievement. Forty pounders may come along like tube trains on the Continent but they still don’t do that here.
And, what made Dave’s fish especially significant was the fact that it has been off the radar for many, many years. This is a fish that was last seen over a decade ago and it’s good to know that it has prospered mightily since then.
Intriguingly, the massive fish came to a surface-fished bait and the sight of this whale of a carp slobbering in the floating crust is one that Dave will relive again and again in his memories."
"I am currently in Athens waiting for the start of the CSIO Nations Cup tomorrow. Myself, Alex Duffy, Nial Talbot and Nicola Fitzgibbon are on the team. We have been here for a week already as there was a CSI 2* last week. It was good to have a smaller show to get the horses used to the arena.
The logistics team, Julia and Edward, did a brilliant job of driving the horses down to Greece, allowing me to stay at home for a couple of extra days. They set off last Sunday morning and this is what Edward had to say:
“We left a dark Hickstead at 3.45am and headed to Dover followed by the yard boy David Simpson with his little friend Jack, off to Belgium to pick up his new horse.
We travelled with P&O, not because of the price... but because they do a far superior breakfast in the truckers' lounge.
We headed south, via Reims, Troyes, and Dijon, to our overnight stables at Bourg en bresse. The horses travelled really well. The French motorways were very quiet and it wasn't too hot. Plenty of drinks and a small feed during the day kept us happy, as well the horse.
A fantastic supper of spaghetti bol finished the day off. Bed by 10 for an early start and the drive to Cervia."
The ferry crossing from Cervia was 22 hours. The conditions for the horses were very good, with industrial sized fans to keep them cool.
As always when the horses are travelling, Catherine Woods does a fantastic job of looking after the horses. It is the attention to detail that she gives when she is looking after them that makes sure they arrive in top condition. It is very easy for horses to get travel sick, so it is imperative that they have plenty of rest stops to allow them to drink and urinate.
Back at home, the lads went Eventing at Ardingly. Lucy Bunn took a very promising home-bred mare. This was only her second event, and all things considered they did very well. Her dressage test was much improved but this time her jumping let her down. Not what you would expect from a show jumper! She was clear cross country, bar a few time faults. Lucy was delighted when Pippa Funnell commented on what a lovely mare her horse was. Sue Bunn also had a couple of home-bred youngsters on the lorry, well ridden by Brian Cassidy who narrowly missed out on a ribbon with his own Electric Royale – time faults again. It is quite tricky to adjust to the speed needed for cross country when you have spent your career in the show jumping ring.
On Sunday it was back to jumping with a trip to Royal Leisure for the youngsters. It is so important to give the younger horses plenty of experience without putting them under any pressure. Many an hour is spent at Royal Leisure during the winter slowly bringing the horses up through the grades.
The show in Athens finishes on Saturday. The horses will be on the ferry on Sunday lunchtime, so if all things go according to plan they will be home by Wednesday evening. I’m heading off to HOYS before they get back, taking Dorada, Royal Concorde and Mullaghdrin Gold Rain. Camblin has qualified for the Grade C final with me and David is also riding him in the Young Riders final. It’s great to get an invite to one of the UK’s leading shows. Touch wood, I usually have a good show at Birmingham, so fingers crossed!"
“A nightmare week; thieves broke into our kennels containing my own dogs and stole four spaniels. They also broke into and stole spaniels from two other properties just ten miles away before coming to us. While breaking into our kennels, the thieves must have noticed that they had stolen an older spaniel from their previous job and they chucked her out.
We are left heartbroken, disillusioned and violated and there is quite a lot of anger whirling around as well. The dogs they left behind are visibly shaken by the whole break-in and we have spent the last four days and nights throwing every ounce of effort, thought and networking into trying to get our dogs back. Alongside this activity we have had to review our security arrangements and turn the property into the equivalent of Fort Knox.
I must have spoken to every lost dog organisation in the country and I’m shocked by how often this happens and the difficulties that an owner comes up against when trying to encourage the powers that be to take action.
There has been very little to smile about this week but there are three things that have helped to soften the blow. Firstly, we were able to ensure that the old spaniel bitch that had been dumped was safely re-united with her owners.
Secondly, anyone that has read any of my recent blogs will have noticed that I have been banging on about how wonderful the country network and community are. This week has seen them prove me to be right and the support help and encouragement we are receiving at the moment is astonishing. Thank you so much everyone.
And lastly, especially because reading this blog could leave you feeling a little glum, we picked a six-month-old Staffy Pup from Battersea this week who we hope will eventually become part of our demonstration team. Dexter is a full-on bolshy, badly behaved, over-sexed brat. His antics this week have been a very positive distraction. This bad boy is going to need some serious rehab. However, he is just delightful!”
"Dexter is small, compact, powerful, fearless, loves human contact and absolutely game for everything. Obviously I’m describing the breed that can only be a Staffy. We picked him up from Battersea Dogs Home about three weeks ago. No dog we have ever owned has been so much of a handful. My teenage son Charlie started his scooter up and Dexter immediately attacked the exhaust, he believes that tables and kitchen units were built for sporting purposes, he leaps onto them, over them and uses them as a vantage point to gain extra height.
He plays so rough that even Tommy our very heavy handed German Shepherd has had to give him a talking to. And he was even game enough to charge at Lottie our Kune-Kune pig. Lottie is the perfect person to teach over-confident dogs that you really do not mess with swine. She treats all dogs big and small with contempt, Dexter charged Lottie hackles high, lips pulled back and teeth flashing, as usual she did not even raise an eye at him, she continued to snuffle around and eat her food. Dexter retreated but as Lottie moved to forage for more food this prompted another charge from Dexter - “why you are so rude, you obnoxious little brat” would have been the cartoon bubble above Lottie’s head as she flicked her powerful head side-wards sending Dexter Flying. Dexter is no fool he now gives Lottie a wide but curious berth.
To be honest if you set up a school guaranteeing to teach dogs as many bad habits as possible I think you would be hard pushed to teach a seven month old puppy so many bad behaviours. Dexter is highly trained at being bad.
By now you might be thinking that Dexter is a lost cause, but far from it - this little guy is a genius, intelligent, hard working, thoughtful and desperately keen to please.
His attention to detail in clicker work is awesome and he concentrates so hard that if he doesn’t solve a problem immediately he throws a mini tantrum, no worries, once we harness his enthusiasm this little man will be a superstar.
At this point in his training every morsel of food that he gets comes from my hands, mostly during a clicker session. I am writing this blog at ten o’clock in the evening, the doors are open and Tommy , Teasel and Dexter are tearing around outside like a bunch of loonies, every ten minutes little Dexter comes trotting in gives me a little nuzzle and then returns to the garden to terrorise the other two. Am I going soft? I just adore this little dog!"
"I was lucky enough to visit Argaty, near Doune last week. Argaty is home to some of the Red Kites that were reintroduced to Scotland in 1996. In winter, there can be up to fifty birds wintering there – last week there were twenty-five and they made a spectacular show. Although the birds have a five-foot wingspan, they only weigh around 800g, so they are no threat to lambs. The estate of which Argaty is a part does a lot of conservation work, including bees and pond life. If you get a chance to visit Argaty, which is supported by RSPB, please do so – it is well worth a visit.
Saturday found me at Caledonian Marts in Stirling at their sale of rare and traditional breeds, and poultry sale. It turned out to be a good social event where I met a number of folk who are regular contributors to the forums on “The Accidental Smallholder”. I did well insofar as I resisted bidding fever for most of the day. There were a couple of lots of poultry that I was interested in but when they went above my top price, I stopped bidding. In the past, my urge to “win” has taken over! In the end, all I came home with was a dozen Copper Black Maran hatching eggs.
Despite it being autumn and hardly the natural time to hatch eggs, I have had two Black Rocks go broody. Since the hens have slowed down laying anyway, I thought they might as well do something useful. We have a Copper Black Maran cockerel, so I’ll be able to retain purebred eggs in future (hopefully, but no counting).
Anyway, when I got back from the sale, both broodies had absconded from their nests. By bedtime, both were back, though, and looking fluffed up and grumpy. One went in the broody coop and one in the bachelor pad, each with six eggs. This morning, the one in the broody coop was sitting tight but the other one had decided motherhood wasn’t for her, so all twelve eggs are under one hen. I hope she manages to avoid cracking them. Twenty-one days to go!
A friend of mine has recently purchased three Kune Kune weaners – two gilts and an unrelated boar – with the intention of breeding. I was a bit sceptical, but I have to confess, they are lovely. I can understand why people would want them as pets, now.
One of our dogs is lame – she’s off to the vet tomorrow. She has a swelling on her left front leg; the joint is slightly twisted – I’m not sure if she injured it when she was young or whether she was born like that – so it may be slightly arthritic. Other than that, everyone seems fine – touch wood."
"During my few days in Scotland I also had the chance of doing some stalking with Ronnie Buchan. Ronnie works as a professional deer stalker in the Highlands on estates such as Glen Affric. This is a much larger Moor that Nairnside, and parts of the moor are at very high altitudes.
Here a species of grouse called a Ptarmigan live - they are pure white with black eyes, and the males have a bright red watteling. Ptarmigan live on the snow line high up in mountain where the snow seldom melts. It is a bird that is hardly ever seen on any menu because to find them you will have to walk miles over hard ground going vertically most of the time.
Nick Havenmart arranged for Ronnie to take me out to see some red deer stags and to stalk one. I was looking forward to this, as stalking on a moor is very different to the woodland stalking I am used to. On the moor you are far more exposed and stand out like a sore thumb against the heather unless to wear the appropriate clothing and even then there are techniques to follow.
On the first morning I ventured out on to the moor by myself. After seeing the lay of the land the day before, I knew where I wanted to be just as the morning broke.
I left the house at four am jumping into the Land Rover and making my way up to the hill. It was a wet misty morning and visibility was not good as I climbed higher on to the moor, but I carried on ever optimistic that the weather would clear. I got to the spot I had ear marked the day before. The morning had not broken and gauging by the weather, the sun up would be later than normal so I set my mobile alarm and settled down for a snooze while dawn broke. When I awoke the sun was just coming up - not that I could see it, as the weather was terrible.
The mist was quite thick and I could just about see the stream at the bottom of the ravine. But this did not stop me, being the all-weather outdoor mad country man that I am, and I ventured out to see how far I could go. The first clue I had that this was going to be a fruitless day was when I used my range finder to get an idea of the distance between me and the bottom of the ravine. Range finders work in layman’s terms by bouncing a beam of light or a laser off of a target and then back to the finder which then displays the distance. I pressed the range button to find out that it gave me a reading of four yards, I the looked at a tree ten yards away and it was also four yards. It seems that range finders do not work well in mist - funny they didn’t say that on the box or in the shop where I bought it. I continued to work my way along the lip of the ravine for about a mile but the weather seemed to be getting worse not better. In the end I made my wet way back to the Land Rover and was back at home making breakfast for everyone by eight o’clock.
That evening and the following morning Ronnie and I went out looking for deer but it rained non stop for three whole days. On the my last evening Ronnie could not come with me so I decided to go it alone again, but this time to the other end of the moor where there was a large area of tree fell. Here the ground was hard going and it was quite a way from the initial places I had been to. I drove on to the moor taking a different track which did not climb like the other did, instead it followed a line of forestry.
Pretty much straight away I started to see deer. A good roe buck crossed my path and ran off into the woods followed by a roe doe a few hundred yards further on. This doe ran up on to the hill then stopped and looked back at me as I passed. This was looking good; it had stopped raining and the sun had come out. There was even a rainbow.
A couple of days earlier I had come to this very place with Ronnie. Now I consider myself to be fairly fit - some people complain when out Hawking with me that I walk too fast - but Ronnie beats me hands down. The guy is part goat and to quote a favourite Top Gear phrase “some say he was born on the hill under some Heather”. Ronnie is one of a special breed of people that I have had the pleasure and honour to meet in my work with the game and the food world. He is passionate and very skilled at what he does, he also has compassion and a high respect for the deer and wildlife around him as well as a very strict code about which animals need to be culled and which will continue the herd with strong blood lines.
As with Julian down at Houghton Hall, Ronnie is very mindful of good deer management. Ronnie’s knowledge of the moors, wind conditions, and the habit of the deer are a vital asset when stalking on the hill. The deer here are wild and very sensitive to noise, smells, and movement. The Moor can be a fantastically beautiful place but it can also be a dangerous one and you need to be very aware of this when out there.
As I Crested the hill I was climbing the evening sun was fully out and sinking slowly towards the horizon I estimated that I had around two hours of shooting time left.
Ronnie had told me to look out for two or three roe bucks that had territories set up here. I continued along walking slowly and keeping low but also stopping every now and again to scan the area with my binoculars and listen. It’s incredible how quiet it is out here with only the sounds of small birds and the odd 'laugh' of a grouse breaking the silence.
My aim was to make across this area to a pile of tree roots a mile from where I crested the hill as it was a good place to get some height and scan the surrounding area. I got to about 150 yards from the pile when I spotted some movement. I laid down and looked through the scope of my gun to see four red deer hinds (females) move out of the wood onto the moor. They where far too far from me to be in range and anyway hinds are not in season until November. Normally there are adult stags or young stags that follow groups like this so I kept still and watched them move across the hill.
I took stock of the ground around me and my position. A little way ahead of me I saw that the ground rose to a small patch of heather this would be a good place to be if any thing followed the hinds out of the forest. I crawled on my belly keeping low so that the deer would not see me. The wind was blowing into my face so they had no idea I was there. Just as I reached the place I was making for I caught sight of some more movement through the small trees just to my right. I looked through the scope and saw a young stag appear. He moved out following the hinds. The rangefinder told me he was 250 yards away - not a problem with a rifle I was used to but this was my first time with this rifle so I preferred to get closer.
I moved forward slowly another 100 yards keeping low, crawling through wet heather and sliding over the fallen trees. Now the Hinds had moved further out on to the moor the stag had pretty much stayed where he was. I took aim and waited for him to turn side on for the ideal shot that would kill him out right. I waited for what seemed like an age before everything was right and I had not only a safe shot but a shot that was not going to just injure the animal. If the shot is not right, do not take it. Safety and the welfare of the animal is paramount when stalking deer - the animals must be dispatched quickly and cleanly just as our domestic livestock is dispatched in an abattoirs.
I breathed in and out and took the shot. The hinds further along looked up as the stag fell, but did not run. As far as they where concerned they had heard something but could see no danger. I waited five minutes and then got up to make my way to the carcas and as I rose out of the Heather the hinds ran off along the hill. Once I got to the stag I could see it was around 18 months old with antlers about a foot long. He must have weighted around the 125 kg mark. This was a good animal to take as he was one of the younger animals from this herd that Ronnie had told me needed to go. At one year to 18 months old this was also prime eating venison. Once garloched (gutted) I felt every kilo of the 125 as I dragged it two miles back to the Land Rover and headed home for supper."
"One of the horses I worked on this week was a fantastic little eventer, a 15.2hh bay six year old who has had a really busy summer. She is quite highly strung, and holds a lot of tension in her neck. She isn’t keen to work on the right rein and according to the owner 'locks' her neck to the left.
I found her neck musculature heavily built on her left side, particularly her splenius muscle, which starts at the nuchal ligament, thoracolumbar fascia and the spinous processes of T 3 – 5, and inserts on to the occipital bone, mastoid process and the transverse processes of C 3 – 5; so this muscle plays an integral part unilaterally in flexing the head to the side (laterally), and it also works to extend the neck.
This was Polly’s first massage and she responded really well, letting me work deeply into her muscles and releasing a lot of tension. When I did some lateral neck stretches I found she was really supple to stretch to the left but not as keen to stretch to the right - due to her shortened tight musculature on the left she was not comfortable to stretch those muscle fibres.
Her thoracolumbar region – behind her saddle, was also really tight. Having worked deeply with compressions and using my knuckles to perform ‘petrissage’ techniques, I then did some flexion stretches on her back to stretch out the muscle fibres. After her massage, Polly went out in the field to relax for the rest of the day.
Another horse I worked on this week was a big grey eventer, James. He has been on box rest due to a slight tear in his distal check ligament, but he is now being walked and due to start doing more work again soon. He really enjoyed his massage, shutting his eyes and putting his head down, and didn’t take long to really relax into it, which is very rewarding for me.
I will be seeing Polly again next week and will let you know how she is getting on!"
“On Saturday, we had our last grouse shoot of the season. Grouse are one of the few totally wild game birds still around in the UK, and though we had a good spring we have decided to not to shoot any more this year to leave a good breeding stock for next year. We had a fabulous day in testing windy conditions, and I now have four young grouse in the fridge waiting to be plucked; the rest have either been given to the other guns or sold to the game dealer. Grouse are one of my favourite foods and although plucking them can be a bit of a bore, they are definitely worth the effort. Young roast grouse cooked so it’s still slightly pink is delicious.
When I took over the estate there was hardly a grouse on the place, but with the hard work and dedication of my two gamekeepers, we have started to rebuild a good stock of grouse. In fact this year, although we are still talking small numbers, we have managed to shoot more on the estate than for the previous 20 years. That has given us all renewed enthusiasm to keep going, and keep improving the moorland habitat.
We have been helped this year by the wonderful spring with its mixture of sun and showers, which was perfect for insect life which is what young chicks eat before they are big enough to digest heather. The other key elements are good quality heather and lots of it. Grouse love heather! They eat it, sleep in it, hide in it and nest in it. As implausible as it sounds (being in Scotland) heather does not like too much wet. It likes well drained ground, and as old drains and ditches on the estate, dug over 100 years ago, start to block and the ground gets water logged, rushes start growing and the heather dies away. This spring we are already planning to start re-digging some of the ditches and drains in a hope to increase the heather coverage on the hill. Already where we have restricted the sheep grazing, heather is starting to re-grow very quickly.
The other thing that likes the heather is bees. During the summer we have quite a number of beehives, put on the hill by local bee keepers. The hives are put them out on the hill in June as the bell heather starts to bloom, they then collect the hives again at the end of September as the last of the “ling” or common heather bloom starts to fade. In return they give us quite a few pots of heather honey which is delicious, especially when you know it’s come from your own heather! The hives have now started to be collected so I know that, despite a lovely two weeks of weather, autumn will soon be on us.”