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Below Bill Ayling shares with you some of the things that come to mind as he walks his dog Fudge around Purley on Thames


October 2018

Poorly Fudge

I don’t know anything more worrying than a poorly dog. Fudge has been quiet now for a few days. It began when this normally greedy dog wouldn’t eat her breakfast one Monday morning. She had been out for her normal run, and on returning she usually barks excitedly for her food. On this particular morning she just wanted to lay down in her basket. She refused all food.

This carried on all day, nothing seemed to interest her. She lay, eyes closed. Her nose, when I touched it, was dry and warm. In the afternoon and early evening she was no livelier so I contacted the vets’ surgery in School Road, and arranged an appointment for the following morning. As she was no better the next day we took her in to see the new vet. He was very thorough in his physical examination of Fudge, but could find nothing wrong. He prescribed three different types of medicine for her – at a cost£1 of 20. It was a difficult job getting her to take the tablets. Eventually I wrapped them up in a piece of cheese, which she reluctantly accepted.

We have had Fudge back to the vets again and she is slightly better. Yesterday she gobbled down a dish of chicken, but wouldn’t eat the rice in which I boiled it, but at least she wasn’t sick after  bolting the food. At present she is laying in the sunshine asleep, after a morning walk with Eileen – I’d dearly love to hear her bark for her breakfast!

Cream Teas at Mapledurham Watermill

Pangbourne Bowls Club arranged an afternoon trip and a cream tea on the lawn at Mapledurham Watermill, it was a great success. The weather was perfect, perhaps just a trifle windy, but the sky was blue and the sun felt warm. We sat at some very comfortable chairs and tables which had been laid out on the grass and watched the river slowly pass, whilst we discussed the seasons past bowls games.

I was delighted to see my old friends, the Egyptian geese wandering freely about on the little island. I had an unusual view of Mapledurham Lock from the opposite side of the river. We have walked that stretch of the river foot path hundreds of times, but that was the first glimpse I’d had of it from the Oxfordshire bank. I even recognised the lock-keeper as he went about his work.

We received a very warm welcome from Jane, Miller’s wife, who arranged the cream teas. The teas were enchanting. There were superb thick scones, full of juicy dried fruit, large crocks of delicious cream and numerous pots of strawberry and raspberry jam. Jane was continually flitting to and fro filling and refilling pots of hot, strong tea. It was so relaxing, just sitting there, feeling the late autumn sun on our faces, we could have sat contentedly all day.

After tea we walked and watched the old wooden paddles of the water mill turn slowly, as it churned up the clear green water before it flowed out to the Thames. Then we spent an enjoyable time wandering about inside the old mill watching its moving parts, before a visit to the well-stocked shop, which included the famous Mapledurham flour. We were made welcome by The Miller himself.

Altogether it was a wonderful and unusual trip. All I can say is “thank you “to Alan Copeland for arranging the outing and congratulations to “The Miller and his Wife” for making it   such a memorable afternoon for their guests.

The Old Timber pew

I can’t walk as far as I used to as I’m afraid my knees are causing some pain. The first island is about as far as I can go on my own at present. I can’t manage Fudge on her lead when I have my rollator, so with just one or two walking sticks I can make it to the kissing gate at the end of River Gardens.

When I reach there I normally sit on a thick, solid hunk of timber which somebody has thoughtfully placed there, probably for people like myself who enjoy a walk to the river, but require a sit down. This block of wood is ancient with very old fashioned square headed iron nails sticking out of it. In appearance it looks very like the supporting timbers inside the Goosecroft Barn. It is about fourteen feet long (don’t ask me to put that in metric please) probably a foot square and rests between two little slopes on the footpath. How the timber got there, or who placed it there I don’t know, but whoever it was deserves my thanks. It enables me to sit down and  allows Fudge, when she’s fit enough, to wander  freely over the meadow.

The Geese

Whilst sitting there, the air was suddenly full of the raucous sound of the honking of geese. They surged past the island in groups going up river. Firstly, there came several dozen Canada Geese swimming sedately along. These were followed by a gaggle of grey lagged geese and in the centre of these were about half a dozen pure white geese. None of the geese appeared to mix, each kept to its own group and type. This made me wonder whether geese have some sort of apartheid system, but then saw, among the second group of grey lagged geese, some of the birds with white markings. These were on their wings, rear feathers or necks. This made me realise that the apartheid system is less rigid among geese than it used to be in South Africa.

The Old Walnut Tree

I was very sorry to see the big, old walnut tree at the end of Colyton Way has been cut down. It has probably been there for over 200 years, and was certainly in position a long time before the modern houses in Purley were built. It makes one shiver to think of the many people who have collected the walnuts over the years.  Their lives, their dress, their manner, the wars. It might be that men collected the fruit from the tree before going off to the Napoleonic Wars…

I used to pick up the nuts myself when taking all our dogs out at one time, and Kath, who owns the tree, never objected. I shall miss the nuts, but will be slightly compensated by the other walnut tree in Brading Way owned by Mike.

He and his wife very kindly often give me a bag of their walnuts when I’m passing. As my pockets are normally already full I pass these on to Mike Bufton, or Eileen’s sister. Memo I must give some to Jane this year). I return the compliment by giving Mike (of the walnut tree) some of my grapes, which are now all full and of a luscious purple colour. (Memo must also give some grapes to Jane – if the birds don’t eat them all).

The Grape Vine

The grapes do look very imposing hanging down from the roof of the awning. I saw a robin tucking into them the other morning, and there are signs that other birds have been amongst them (Memo must get them picked and stored away or there won’t be any to send to Jane – or Mike).

The cutting from the vine I gave to Mike Bufton about four years ago has been trained along the top of his wooden fence and now stretches for about twenty feet along it. I’ll ask him how they are doing…

The Lawn Mower

In a recent article I wrote about the help I receive from Joe when I need my lawn mower repairing to make it work properly. There has been a gap of nearly six weeks, due to the drought, when I had no reason to mow the lawn. Now the grass is beginning, slowly but surely, to grow again.
When I took the mower out of the greenhouse for some reason I couldn’t get it started.
“A job for Joe!” I thought, but checked the petrol, the one job I can manage on my own!) to find the tank was empty. This was strange because I remember filling it up before the drought. Imagine my surprise when I found that as fast as I poured petrol in, it came out of the bottom of the tank! On investigation I found that the connecting rubber pipe had become perished during the time it was not used. There was a big hole in it, about an inch long (in metric measurement – it was also split!).
The good news is that there is an excellent mower repair outfit near  Pangbourne  who did an excellent job for just £29.

Armistice Day

I have written the following poem for Armistice Day which might be of interest.

It’s Over

Let’s raise a cheer, for the final all clear
As the bugle sounds
O’er the battle-grounds.
Memories deep, in timeless sleep
The fighters themselves will always keep.
Above the poppies crimson blast
The peace flag flutters out at last.
No tattle, no battle, no weapons to rattle
No missiles to do you a harm.
Off to their homes in field, fen or farm
Gone are the men
To mountain or glen.
All caring, no swearing or language profane
Home are the heroes by shipload and train,
They’ll give out a roar
At Blighty’s green shore.
Knowing the fighting is over
When sighting the white cliffs of Dover.
Again!
—————–

Bill Ayling