The fields behind my Mother’s house have belonged to her family for three generations. They were where my sisters, brother and I spent our childhood. Everyday was an adventure. I remember summers spent building stone houses in the pigeon field with our cousins or making hay houses when the meadow had been baled. Then when evening came ten or twelve of us would gather at the top of the hanging field, teams were picked and the final hours of daylight, on those long summer evenings, were spent playing cowboys and indians among the ragwort and rushes. We would hear our mother calling in the twilight and head home through the thistle field, tired, a little scared from telling ghost stories but ready to do it all again when the sun rose the next morning.
There was such freedom in childhood then, it was so carefree and we were in no rush to grow up. The fields were our backyard, we knew every inch of them and whenever I walk them now they bring back so many memories of adventures taken together. They have certainly been very influential in my love for the outdoors.
This morning I needed some time on my own. I took my gun and Mossy and headed out across these fields in search of woodcock. Under the fence and onto the lane, then across Mahons field towards Foley’s woods. The ground in Mahons was a thick gluey mess as they had just harvested a potato crop. It took some of the ‘fizz’ out of Mossy as I needed him quiet and steady when I reached the woods.
The morning was unseasonably mild. Midges still hung in hoards over the water as I crossed the ditch and climbed into the woods. I loaded the chambers, called Mossy to heel and set forth. Nothing caught our attention as we made our way down through this narrow part of the wood, a couple of squirrels danced in the branches above us and blackbirds called in alarm ahead of us giving away our presence. I crossed another water filled ditch and headed towards the main body of the wood where yet again we were faced with high water.This time it was unpassable but I was able to peer through the trees to where the pond is and there were ripples on the water. It looked promising.
I followed the ditch that surrounded the wood until I found a possible place to cross. It wasn’t going to be easy but it looked like the best option at the time. Steadying myself and my gun at the edge of the ditch I took a stride across and my foot went down, water flooded into one of my boots..great, a soggy foot and nothing to show for it.
Once inside the woods again the ground was drier. I moved forward with Mossy once more at heel and we quietly made our way back down towards the pond. The woods had been heavily grazed by cattle so there was very little cover to conceal us but it also meant I had more daylight to carry a shot if needed. I approached the edge of the pond, paused and held my breath..they saw me just as I saw them and rose in one single movement off the water and up to my left. I took my time, lifted the gun to my shoulder, picked one and fired. A clean kill, a male teal fell dead on the surface of the pond .
I turned for home, my mother’s house, this time taking the track up through the lane, under the wire and into the flat bottoms. One snipe rose in front of me but I had an empty gun. I had my bag for the morning and my dog had his retrieve and I had almost forgotten about my one wet sodden sock…