Today I decided to stay a little closer to home to research the place for the fourth sit~spot. I figured that the closer it was to my front door the more likely I would pop out to sit in it at odd moments of the day, which is, after all, the whole point for the sit~spot. There was no way that I was going to go for a ten minute walk to get there, then spend another hour sitting, with a ten minute walk back to the house. I would resent having to take that time out of my day and it just wouldn’t happen as often as I’d wanted it to. I need something nearer and easier to get to.
So I started thinking about the spaces immediately around my house. Behind us is a very steep bank that runs all the way up into the mountains which tower over us (our house has the red roof below).
There is a little path running up the neighbour’s garden, passed a small pond (where I have seen kingfishers), onto a rickety bridge across a waterfall and into the sheep field where there is a good view of the valley below. This takes me about three minutes to walk up to. I used to spend the long summer days up there looking for butterflies with the children when they were small. The trees are a mix of ash, beech and hazel with a few apples trees planted around and there are ‘bays’ of trees on the edge of a large grassy and very steeply sloped field, which houses about sixty sheep in the spring and autumn for a few weeks. The field grows into an amazing meadow of very diverse flowers over the summer months when the sheep have gone up to the higher pasture. At the moment it seems all very barren.
There are piles and piles of large rocks under the trees, remnants from ruined shepherds’ huts that were built during the last few hundred years or so and because this is a south-facing slope, the rocks provide perfect places for snakes to hibernate in the winter and sun themselves every morning in the summer. I’ve seen adders up there before on the rocks. Even now the sun has warmed the ground up enough for the snow to have almost melted, which is not the case in the sit~spots I have tried out on the other, darker side of the valley. It feels like a different world up there; it won’t be long until hellebores are nodding their beautiful green flowers – the first to show after the long snow of the winter.
The field is full of red deer droppings, absolutely full of them. I had not realised that it was a major place for them to congregate at night, as I have never walked up there in the winter before. The neighbour has a mangeoire (manger) slung up in a tree at the back to feed them and I realise now that most nights they must come to within a few metres of our back door. They decimated my ivy bush and pushed the fence right over trying to get to the more difficult parts of the plant during a cold spell this winter. I even found deer fur on the path up to the field today. They are everywhere.
I found a nice spot to sit as far away from the waterfall as possible, as I could not hear a thing staying close to it, the roar of the water was so overpowering and we are not even anywhere near the snow-melt season when the cascade becomes deafening. The whole side of the mountain is riddled with tiny streams and larger waterfalls and it is a question of getting a good position that is in between two major sources of sound in order to be able to hear the birds better. It is a shame, because sitting next to the waterfall is so soothing and in summer the spray goes right over you and cools you down.
It was absolutely freezing this morning when I walked up there. I found it extremely cold sitting on one of the large rocks. After forty minutes I was starting to see a few birds stir but I heard nothing. I looked at my watch and realised I had been sitting there for an hour and it had seemed like five minutes, which was such a contrast to my first sit~spot where every minute dragged by in such painful boredom. This place had so many things to look at; the road snaking along passed the end of the hamlet, with the occasional car wandering along it and a plain view of the opposite side of the valley where the red deer rut in the autumn.
And up to the east, a view of the mountains at the end of the valley where golden eagles, bearded vultures, crows, kites, buzzards, spotted nutcrackers and all manner of other birds fly across regularly, although today that view was shrouded in cloud.
I am pretty much decided that this is going to be the place to sit. The only draw back is that for a few weeks of the year, it will be full of sheep, which I have no intention of sitting amongst as they can get quite aggressive and I would also have to face the wrath of the farmer (who is also pretty aggressive himself). I’m so enamoured with this place that I want to dismiss that problem as something to deal with when it comes, even if it means sitting somewhere else for those few weeks.