The last time I was invited shooting to this rural valley in Oxfordshire, where cows rather than stockbrokers are still living in the timber and tiled barns built for them centuries ago, it was a case of match abandoned, as the thick snow in January this year had made the tiny lanes impassable.
Last Saturday, the world couldn’t be more different for the beginning of the partridge season: late-summer stubble, swallows swooping and fluffy white clouds. Sunglasses and enquiries about where one could buy cotton plus fours are the order of the day (tweed is very itchy when it’s hot).
There is a £50 fine for anyone who shoots a pheasant-they’re not in season until October 1. Lunch is a picnic beside a small marquee under an oak tree, deep in the ancient woods. There is talk of the incredible season that many grouse moors are having up north, not to mention some of the salmon rivers.
But when a fine fallow buck crosses in front of the line, with his splendid antlers ready for the rutting season to come, there is a collective sigh of pleasure from guns and beaters. Scottish rivers, Yorkshire moors and downland shoots 2010 could prove to be the Bordeaux 1982 of the shooting and fishing world. Watch it develop over the next few months.