Or Canine Conversations on the Downs, an Arranged Marriage and Loud Sheep…
We walk over to Bromyard Downs which is common land just outside Bromyard and follow the line of the plateau that rises to over 700 ft above the town.
Although there isn’t much sun it is warmer than yesterday and the wind has dropped at last. The air is full of the sound of larks and kestrels hover above the flower studded grass. Every few minutes we stop and talk to dog walkers. A couple with a pair of German Shepherds tell us that they are too heavy for the police. “They have to be able to heave them over walls, you see”, they say. We do see.
And a man with a Beddlington, a lurcher and ‘what you get when you cross a Beddlington and a lurcher’ informs us that “90 percent of people up here don’t know anything about dogs and can’t even tell the difference between a lurcher and a Beddlington”. At least we can.
And then a lady with three extremely fine black Labradors lets us in to the secret – “Fish”, she tells us, “I feed them a very expensive dog food made of fish, salmon or trout it doesn’t matter it’s all good for their coats”. And so now we know.
And of course there is our new friend Tony who runs the Bromyard folk festival and who owns 20 month old Milo, a Jack Russell who we hope may father Millie’s puppies in a few months’ time. And Millie whose taste has always run more to dirty Welsh collies likes him. So maybe we will get to be grandparents for a second time this year.
We walk through a sea of bluebells in Hillfield Coppice and emerge at a tumbledown shepherd’s cottage. When it became too derelict to be habitable the old man who lived there simply abandoned it to live in a caravan next to it where he stayed for the next twenty years until he accidentally burnt it down. We see the graves of his pets, the weatherworn statues of saints (maybe) that dotted his garden and his handwritten signs reflecting his hatred of horses.
We take a farm track onto the Brockhampton Estate and while we stand in quiet contemplation of the view before us Millie rolls in something disgusting and trots on down the path oblivious to the telling off, the smell or the cloud of flies trailing behind her.
It is a still, beautiful evening loud with birdsong and we go through the woods and meander our way through fields . In one we are followed by a herd of very curious young cows and in another surrounded by hordes of bleating sheep and their lambs. The sound is deafening. “If I ever wake up and say I want to be a shepherd, smother me”, says Darrell almost shouting above the racket. Millie who is uninterested in sheep is totally engrossed in gobbling down horribly dirty lambs’ tails as fast as she possibly can…