Waking up to winter at Week Parks

27. October 2011

After a week of unsettled weather (in other words, loads of rain interrupted by brief dry spells) it’s been the sort of autumn day we love today at Week Parks. Bright sunshine, clear skies, not a breath of wind and quite warm – it’s difficult to believe November is only 3 days away.

Autumn eveningn sun at Week Parks, North Devon

We’ve been readying ourselves for winter by clearing away outdoor furniture and tidying the barns so it’s easier to retrieve our firewood. We’re planning to spend more time in our kitchen and the adjoining snug, so we’ll be closer to the Aga and the wood burning stove in the snug. So a job for this weekend is to rearrange some furniture and install the tv in the snug!

We love taking the dogs to the beach in winter, usually first thing on a Saturday or Sunday. They can run free and Fred can’t get enough of chasing pebbles thrown into the sea – Clarence, who is now ten months old, hasn’t quite got the hang of that yet, but tries to eat as many shells as possible instead. Our beaches are dog-friendly all year, but in winter there are no restrictions and fewer people – usually we see only dog-walkers and surfers, or the occasional horse rider. There are few more atmospheric sights than a horse cantering along the water’s edge, receding into a mist of distant spray on the vast expanse of Saunton Sands.

Dogs playing in the sea

If we don’t take Fred and Clarence to the beach, we very often time our “bracing long walk” so we can descend into the valley, enjoy the views along the Taw and climb gently back into High Bickington when the fire is burning in the Old George. We and the dogs are assured of a warm welcome, however much mud and water we bring with us – as we would be in most of the pubs around here. After a couple of pints of good local ale or cider, and maybe even a home-made pie or game casserole, the return journey never seems to take too long!

In the garden, I planted garlic (the bulb was a present from Tracy’s dad!) at the beginning of October and it’s going great guns. The compost bins (three of which are newly constructed) are filling up, but there’s more to come! There are lots of leaves around, and there are plenty of herbaceous leftovers to clear out of the veggie garden. We need to till the ground in preparation for potatoes to be planted early in the New Year and decide what to do with the last untouched area in the veggie garden. Last year, a cool flow of air, caused by spring breezes whistling through the yard and up over the wall into the veg patch, kept the soil temperature quite low for too long, so we’re looking to create a windbreak there during the winter.

The new compost bins also need a hedge to screen them from view from the house and, possibly, a drainage ditch to keep the ground around them dry. They’re situated at almost the lowest point in the garden, so it’s a bit wet down there after this week’s weather. We’re also planning a bit of tree surgery to allow a beech, along with some hawthorn and holly beneath it, a bit more breathing space. And if the wood seasons well, it’s entirely possible we’ll be able to use some of it indoors at the end of the winter.

Last but not least, it looks like we'll be able to plant some trees in the corner field - not as many as we'd like, but at least it will be a start!