Country mouse goes shooting in Hampshire

Waiting in line.

The wind swept through the high beeches, rattling the golden leaves and sending the odd one spiralling to earth. The rooks, which always seem enlivened by cruel weather, tumbled across the sky. A few of the squadron peeled off to mob a buzzard before mustering in the droopy branches of a leafless ash. In front of me, the tall maize quivered against the wind releasing clouds of goldfinches, shrieking blackbirds and a party of holidaying redwings. The drive had begun.

Although the army of beaters could be heard approaching, my mind had become transfixed by the countryside. I hadn’t been back to this shoot for a couple of seasons and was struck by how much the new saplings had grown, by the whirls of white seed-heads on the wild clematis and by the curves and dips of the land itself. Then, it was a new shoot, but the tireless work of my friend Colin, the gamekeeper, has sewn a delightful tapestry across this patch of Hampshire. Nature, too, has been kind this year and I thought, briefly, of my own garden that has suddenly outgrown itself. In the wind, a speck of bright rust flared against the iron sky and the cock pheasant passed me before I raised my gun.

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