The Countryside About Us: December 1992

posted 26 Nov 2012, 11:37 by James Mansell
The Murray Greys are back in town! This sounds like the sort of announcement you might read in a society magazine! Not quite applicable to our village life, but rather the fact that some of these handsome cattle whose ancestors originated on the banks of the mighty River Murray in Australia are grazing the Lawn meadow here in Earl Soham. In the cattle world at any rate, one of them especially is something of an aristocrat. One of the cows, the mother of the very light coloured calf you may have noticed, was Champion of her class at this year’s Royal Show. Her bull calf, or rather its untypical colour for the breed, is something of a mystery. A throw back, or as the zoologists would say a ”recessive gene”, making its presence felt. The phenomenon happens in the best of regulated families! The consolation is that it was a bull calf. Had it been a heifer calf breeding from it would have been very unwise as the undesirable light colour would have been perpetuated.

Once again nature manages to cause as much havoc in our countryside as mankind himself. Violent gusty winds in late October produced a crop of fallen branches, trees and damaged buildings.  If there was any consolation the mayhem was happening in daylight hours. At least one could actually see the roof lifting off or the fence collapsing!  Nothing is more stressful than lying in bed during the small hours, listening to a howling gale, hearing crashing noises and wondering what on earth will greet you when morning actually arrives. I find it very sad to see, lying on the ground, a familiar ash tree or ancient oak that was probably a youngster at the time of the coronation of Charles II. It would have still been standing  upright for a future coronation, but for the mighty strength of nature’s winds.

All of that will now be forgotten because the great occasion of Christmas will soon be upon us.  Christmas Day, I suggest, provides an exception to the proverb ”It is better to travel than to arrive!” Whilst the progress towards the great Christian festival has its pleasures it is a happy climax when the day finally arrives. Time hallows the memory I know, but I and others will have good memories of tending  livestock on Christmas Day. Work is brought forward so only the essential tasks have to be done. It was good to pause a moment when the work was done and lean on the yard gate and watch contented animals bedded down on clean straw peacefully chewing their cud or pulling hay from a rack, before going indoors to join in the festivities.  The countryside about us seems to have a special serenity on Christmas Day.

Thinking of suitable gifts to give at Christmas time can cause some “head scratching”. A book that recalls Christmas past entitled “Suffolk Christmas” by Humphrey Phelps might be welcome idea.

Roger Sykes