It was a pleasant morning, we'd had breakfast and it would have been time for Beloved to take Benno for a walk round the castle on the way to the paper shop. Beloved sighed. "I know", I said, "I feel just the same." There was no need to ask the reason for the sigh. Neither of us had taken that particular walk for several weeks, Benno hadn't been able to manage the slopes lately and grass and pollen count had been high. "Why don't we both go?"
The castle meadows and slopes were covered in wildflowers; since the sheep have been taken off, the area has begun to revert to scrubland. It doesn't take more than a couple of years for that to happen.
Ragwort may need to be controlled when its presence and the likelihood of it spreading to neighbouring land poses a risk to horses and other grazing animals or land used for the production of forage. We pull it out wherever we see it. I've seen farmers do so in rough patches of harvested woodland, simply because these woodlands were adjacent to pasture.
We stopped and talked to several dogs; they and their owners commiserated with us. We also met Harriet, a member of a Valley's End family, none of whom could be considered to belong to the sharper tools in the box. "Where's the dog," she asked. When we told her, she said: "Aaah, that's sad, so now you have to go out with each other?" Harriet is one of these people who are said to possess a heart of gold. Perhaps that's why she ends every conversation with a platitude. "I'm sorry," she said, "you must feel very sad." We agreed. "Ah well," she said, "never mind." We also met Bill. Bill had advice for us. "Get a new dog, now, right away; don't hang about. That's what I did, when the last one died." Bill twitched his neck in a military fashion, causing his toupee to slip a fraction. "Does Bill have a dead gerbil on his head?", somebody, who should know better, unkindly asked the other day. I am sure that Bill loves his little cairn terriers, but he only takes them on when their breeder owners are finished with them and the dogs are very old. Bill is a kind man, but at 90 years old his capacity for lavishing unconditional love on any creature - other than himself, that is - has probably shrunk.
We left them to go their way and we went ours. We bid several more people good morning but avoided getting into conversation. In a small place like Valley's End any kind of news travels fast and although all comments and messages are well-meant and kind, not all are therefore sensitive.