Monday, 9 April 2018

Roads and things

I don't know if it is the norm elsewhere but down here in Dorset it has become very much the norm to close roads when work needs doing. Once upon a time, when road works needed doing a system of traffic lights was put in place allowing, throughout the work, one side of the road to operate pretty much as normal. When one side was finished the lights were simply transferred to the other side. This, as far as I saw, worked quite well and, it seemed to me, a good way of managing the works. 

All that has now changed, the whole road is closed. We are currently undergoing such road works on the A30 and there is a rolling programme of closures throughout the whole of April. Each closure covers several miles. There are diversions in place, however, it doesn't seem to have occurred to the great thinkers in the Council that the local lanes are totally unsuitable for modern traffic needs. There is, for example, a very large car storage facility just west of the road works. This is on an airfield and is serviced by large numbers of vehicle carrying lorries each day. These huge lorries carry eight or nine cars at a time. It would appear the storage site is also a distribution centre as the aforementioned lorries seem to both take in and out their loads of cars. Just imagine for a moment the utter chaos when one of these monsters goes along a diversion which is barely wider than the lorry itself. 

The old lanes of Dorset were never meant for such vehicles. when a car meets one of these vehicles the car must give way and reverse as it is totally unreasonable to expect such a large, loaded or even unloaded, lorry to reverse. Simply there is nowhere to go! Add to that the fact that the car meeting the lorry is, almost certainly being followed along the diversion route by a number of other cars and, bingo, you have chaos. Great planning! I suspect that the whole situation regarding these road is driver by the two modern great Gods …. Money and Health and Safety. I also suspect that the premier God here is Money. When a traffic light system is in place or, as sometimes used to happen, a convoy system there is money involved. When work is controlled by traffic lights it takes a bit longer to complete so, extra cost. When a convoy system is in place it requires extra staff in the form of drivers to manage it and, again, extra cost. This is, all conveniently, backed up by the second God, Health and Safety. 

Although the two systems above have been used without mass traffic casualties for years there appears to be great danger involved for the work force these days. In practical terms this means delays and disruption for all of the local residents and visitors using the area for the month of April, lovely. But hey folks, take heart, there are Council notices dotted around the place telling all whom care to read them that the Council is working hard to make life better for the people of Dorset and doing all sorts of wonderful things to encourage tourism, trouble is, it doesn't actually seem like it! As someone once said, "you couldn't make it up!"

This being a rural area we have, like all rural areas, large numbers of tractors operating around the place. I am sure the residents of Kingsley will be very familiar with them. However, the modern day tractor is quite a different beast from the ones of yesteryear. Today the driver is perched eight or ten feet above the ground in an air conditioned cab operating a system, which is computer controlled, in a vehicle which can travel at high speed. They are big, I mean very big, high, wide and fast. No longer the fifteen or sixteen miles an hour of the old tractors. These monsters really shift. The problem down here seems to be that, for the most part, they are being driven by people whom have had a brain removal operation. These people are almost always young men barely out of their teens. Add to that the fact that it is common place to see them propelling the said tractors, at high speed, with a mobile phone clamped to their ear. These tractors fill the lanes and if you meet one there is nowhere to go. If one or other or both vehicles are unable to stop the result is tragedy. Obviously the tractor wins, a car hitting such a solid mass has no chance. It feels a bit like taking your life into your hands when driving around the local lanes. 

Hardly a week goes by without a tractor encounter of some kind and they are scary. I am of an age where I can justifiably say I am not a boy racer, or, anything like. Experience tells me to drive carefully around the lanes, as mentioned, they are narrow and apart from the tractor menace they also play host to horse riders, cyclists, runners and walkers, but sadly the tractor drivers appear to be oblivious to all of this. Like all other rural areas we don't see policemen any more, I can't recall the last time I saw a police vehicle in our village. I guess if there were more police about driving would improve. I was talking about this to a police officer that comes beating with me and he gave me the figures for tractor related deaths in Dorset last year and, whilst I forget the exact figure, the number was considerable. If you come to Dorset be aware! 

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Save our pub

As some will be aware The Cricketers Inn is up for sale and won't necessarily continue as a pub.

The Localism Act provides a mechanism whereby we can have the pub listed as an "Asset of Community Value" which will protect it for a period allowing time for us to develop a plan to perhaps purchase the pub and run it as a village enterprise.

If you'd like to support this idea please do two things:-

1) Contact parish councillor Claire Millhouse (or the Clerk Karine Nana Yonko) and let her know your thoughts.
2) Support The Cricketers Inn by eating, drinking & socialising there

Monday, 19 March 2018

Robins

Several weeks ago I noticed that a particular robin would pop up in my feed shed almost every time I was in it. At that time it would hop around and flit from one point to another whilst appearing to be curious about what was going on. For a wild bird it was quite fearless, in that, it would come within a yard of me in, what is, a fairly closed in environment. I began putting odd bits of food down for it and soon we had a regular cycle going on. 

I feed my animals twice a day and, therefore, open up the feed shed at regular times in order to do so. The robin usually arrives a few minutes after me and has got used to eating whatever I dropped on the floor for it. This progressed until the little bird would fly into the shed and sit quite near to me, clearly, waiting for food. I began whistling to it in, what can only be described,as a most un-robin like way. None the less my robin was clearly intrigued by the noise I was making as it would cock its head to one side in, what I took to be, a listening pose. One day, as a result of pouring rain, I put my usual offering to the bird on the base of an upturned plastic tub inside the shed. He quickly realised what was going on and began feeding. 

This has now progressed to a daily ritual, but now the robin sings to me. Upon arrival it sits on the afore mentioned tub and makes a delightful little twittering noise. This is nothing like the normal robin calls which, for the most part, are quite loud and fairly penetrating. The little chap sits making these noises and cocking its head from side to side watching my every move. I respond by getting some bread,which I keep for the purpose, from a polythene bag. I break it up into small crumbs and scatter it on to the bin. Whilst this is going on the robin will fly to a spot a few feet away and wait until I have moved back and then it will feed. This has now been going on for about couple of months each day repeating the routine. The robin and I have now progressed to a situation where it will come within about a foot of my hands whilst I am breaking up the bread. As soon as I move back it will feed happily and allow me to remain within a foot or eighteen inches of it. Any sudden movements and it will fly a short distance away, but, within a couple of minutes it will resume feeding again. 

I am of the belief that the twittering noise is to get my attention and, perhaps, as near as it gets to a request to be fed. It would appear progress and the birds confidence seem to build in weekly stages. Each passing week there is a willingness on the robins part to allow me closer to it. Yesterday it came within six inches of my hand. I have no idea if the little bird is male or female, I wonder if it is female, as in the last few days it’s visits are not quite as regular and seem to be only once a day rather than the normal twice.Perhaps it is sitting on eggs somewhere in the garden. Each year we have been here we have had, at least,one brood of baby robins. Some years two.In addition to all of the above I now have two more adult robins which appear at the feed shed. Not yet on a regular daily basis but several times a week. Word is obviously getting around that food is available. I must say, it is a great delight to be able to get so close to a wild bird and to gain its trust and I eagerly await the arrival of my little robin at each feed time.

All of this stirred a memory in the old grey matter as I recalled that my grandmother had a tame robin when I was a child. She at the time was living in the last cottage along the Straits, the house farthest from where I lived in Rose cottage. I don’t recall the details of how granny’s robin became tame or how long the process took. However, granny’s little bird would actually come and feed from her hand. She would take a chair into the garden, just outside the back door, and sit there motionless with food in her outstretched hand and the bird would fly down. It perched on her hand and would remain until it had enough food. It was, if you like, granny’s party piece. 

So, I am hoping to be able to achieve the same result with my robin and each day appears to be a step in the right direction. I, of course, have no idea if I will actually achieve the hand feeding but I will keep you posted. 

Just an update on the wild rabbits which I wrote about previously, they are alive and well. Apart from the odd sighting in my field, I found masses of rabbit tracks in the recent snow. Actually, many of the tracks came right up into the garden and I could see much activity in the earth mound behind the polytunnel which they seem to have colonised.