As a boy, you’d walk Willow with me through the valley. You would share all your secrets and worries, nattering away about this and that, while I pointed out all the plants and critters. Those funny little talks – through forest, field, and stream – are some of the happiest memories I have.
Back then, even the simplest thing, like a waxcap on the bank or blossoming crowfoot in the brook, would light up your face. The times we saw something truly exciting – a slow worm, Merlin, or Giant Puffball – you wouldn’t stop blathering for weeks.
Last weekend, as we walked that very same loop, I could tell Dyl, you didn’t see any of it. I can see you were suffering under a dark cloud. It must obscure so much. I wanted to tell you what I saw, though, and some of what I’ve seen at the farm and on the hill over all these years. I also want to share something with you that only Tadcu knows. For years, I too have struggled with dark thoughts. To manage, I would take myself off up the lane and round the valley with a little notebook in my pocket. I’d scribble down thoughts, feelings, and little things I noticed: flowers in the hedgerow, the changing seasons on the trees, new butterflies on the wing.
I got pretty good at it! Soon I was able to recognise and name most things. Once you name something you can begin to understand it, know what it’s up to. Felt like I was tuning in to hundreds of mini soap operas, full of colourful characters! Some even felt like friends. That must sound funny to you. Your batty old Mamgu! But I found after a while that I needed it. It’s been a rollercoaster mind. I’ve seen so much loss, so much change, everything worn threadbare. Plenty of times I didn’t think it could recover. But it did Dyl! We eventually chose to restore rather than destroy, to protect rather than pull down. I just wish you could see it with those young eyes of yours again.
I think we are meant to notice. Maybe because it’s always mattered so much. It is not your fault that you don’t see, mind. All that time in London couldn’t have helped. You’ve got to nurture it, I think. If we don’t look, we don’t see. And if we don’t see, well how are we possibly going to pick out the route ahead? So, here’s a little part of our story, from some bits I found looking back through those notebooks. Maybe it will help clear the path a little.
July 21st – 1992
Two years now at farm. Mum visited for first time. Took her round land and up on hill. An abundance of ladybirds. Collected some for Daffyd. Wood-ant hill in forest + handful of hare’s foot inkcap, 8 common spotted orchids in meadow and a ‘flock’ of marsh fritillary near the brook. So many! Mum less impressed. Says she remembers ‘clouds’ of them 50 years ago, butterflies weighing down tree branches. Not sure I believe her, but a lovely thought!
May 14th – 2016
Dafydd, Sian and little Dyl staying for weekend. Sian 8 months pregnant (it’s a girl!). Took Dyl on ‘adventure’. Such fun! Everything a marvel to him. Saw Dor Beetles, Red tailed bumblebee, stonechat and skylark. A single Wood white and 2 Small Tortoiseshells. Bad year for butterflies. Lucky it doesn’t take much to keep Dyl entertained. Taught him Yellowhammer call. He wouldn’t stop! Not seen one since hedges came down though.
April 29th – 2027
Big argument at farm again. Bottom field a bog. Crop rotten. Dafydd thinks we should resow, Ioan says no point. Still pushing for regen – not sure sums work. Walked up hill to clear head. V mild – no coat. Path in a state. Bank fallen away since peatland work abandoned – water running down track. Walked back through wood – more small holes in trees – sycamore, beach, willow. Asian Longhorn? Last thing we need, but knew it was coming. Didn’t see much else. Must cheer up. Lamb in oven to celebrate Dyl’s exams tonight.
September 13th – 2035
Sweltering – another summer stretching on. Last of sycamores to be felled sadly. Found shade under cobnut – one from silvopasture ‘experiment’. 4 years now. Sheep seem happy, lounging under willow, nibbling fodder. Long way to go but Callum said soil improved since last time. Rose chaffer, yellow underwing caterpillar and heath bumblebee on walk up. First redwing of the year too – glad last year wasn’t one-off! Always amazed what pops up -waiting in the wings for a chance again. Sian and Daf busy with first chickpea harvest (still funny to think it). Ground too hard to direct drill winter Spelt, so holding off. Dylan visiting and ‘helping out’. Good to see him get his hands dirty.
November 10th – 2041
Convinced Ioan to join me. He struggled up hilltop, but worth it. Greeted by multicoloured carpet of Sphagnum moss! What a recovery. Bed of Hazel and Cobnut on ground in wooded pasture – mast year? Final apples, pears, and plums on trees. Rest in jars, bottles, cellar, or with neighbours. Passed thick tangle of beard lichen in wood and a delight of waxcaps in bottom field – snowy, pink, meadow. Fieldfare now here in real numbers and mixed flock or goldfinch and yellowhammer exploded from scrub in ‘wild’ zone. Told Ioan about the ‘climate refugees’ spotted this year – large tortoiseshell, long tailed blue, vagrant dragonfly near storage pond. Others, like Speckled wood, long gone now. Constant change. Didn’t stay out long – Ioan tired and cold. Walked back hand in hand- like old days. Glorious sunset on our backs.
And here we are now. It’s been quite a journey. Ooking forward to what’s next and so pleased to have you coming back.
All my love