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Autumn Gathering

We spent the afternoon today helping with maintenance work on our local community woodland. The weather was far warmer than anyone could have anticipated and the gazebo which had been arranged to provide shelter from autumn downpours instead gave volunteers a welcome break from the sunshine. Alongside the strimming, weeding and pruning there were impromptu games of cricket, tractor rides and homemade cakes.

We laboured away alongside people of different ages and different occupations all working happily together on a project that is important to the people here. New faces passed through the woodland as we worked and many stopped to chat and share a slice of cake. People were as keen to welcome new neighbours and build friendships as much as they were to reward hard work.



Theo mingled with the older kids and cast admiring glances at the vintage tractor whilst Jim and I helped with the work party and I thought about all the jobs in our own garden that always seem to get forgotten. It was a lovely way to pass the afternoon and it felt like an appropriate way to welcome the new season. I walk through this area most days but rarely notice the changes, today they were everywhere. Berries on bushes, leaves changing colour.  

As a family we are still relatively new to this place and I find myself using words like “remarkable” and “exceptional” to describe the people here, there seems to be cohesion and a common sense of purpose to the community. We are lucky I think.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall ClarinasContemplations

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Ambling through the fields
Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
Me and my doggy friend
This morning I dropped Theo off for his first session at nursery and afterwards for the first time in two years, I walked the dogs on my own. 
We beat a rapid pulse-quickening path around the fields and made it back to the house in record time. The dogs looked tired and slightly bewildered, this is not how we normally do things!
But Theo shall be back with us tomorrow, so we shall be ambling again. Stopping to stare at planes in the sky, examining the ants on the ground and watching the tractors on the horizon…

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A change of seasons…


Over the last few weeks we have been watching as the landscape around us has changed. The heavy farm machinery has arrived and harvested the wheat, rapeseed, barley and linseed in the fields that surround us. Then more tractors have turned over the soil and planted the seeds for next year’s crop.

We have picked and eaten the last flourish of courgettes and beans from my mother’s vegetable plot and we’ve watched as impromptu fruit stalls have sprung up at the side of the road and the hedgerows have grown heavy with seasonal gifts. Theo has delighted at walks accompanied by the fresh experience of blackberry picking and tractor spotting.

Grandpa & Theo tractor watching

This afternoon the heat which has clung to the landscape for the last few weeks subsided and a stiff breeze picked up along the water’s edge near our house, heralding the arrival of a new weather front. The season is changing. The warm heady days of summer are behind us, but I don’t feel sad. Autumn brings its own delights. A change of wardrobe, a change of menu, a change of activities.

I feel the transition between seasons pass much more smoothly now we are in the country. It doesn’t creep up on you as it does in towns. The signs are all around you and there is a comforting, affirming rhythm to the year. 

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The beauty of old orchards…
I had forgotten how lovely orchards are at this time of year. All dappled sunlight and boughs heavy with fruit. We have never found pick your own farms in any other country we’ve lived in except the UK, and it is a joy to be back in Sussex to be able to visit them once again.
Pick your own is such a simple, cheap entertainment to fill an hour on a bank holiday, and whilst everywhere else along the coast was packed with people, we only saw one other family at the farm we visited.
Theo, like most children his age, can’t get enough of fruit, so was happy to accept the invitation to “try before you buy” sampling the different varieties of plums and apples like a connoisseur. We bagged about 4lbs of plums and got back in the car to hear Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi playing on the radio.
“They took all the trees

And put them in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone..”

It was strangely apt because we’re currently fighting to keep a 200 year-old orchard that’s just yards from our house. I hope these places are still around when Theo grows up…

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This is 37!

This is 37!

by Clare Mansell

I turned 37 yesterday and I wondered when is it that people stop celebrating their age and start trying to hide it?

I don’t see a reason to apologise, life is pretty good. I weigh less than I did at 30. I know more about myself than I did at 20. I still wake up every morning wondering what the day might bring.

Me and my extended family all headed to the beach to celebrate yesterday. My nephew cooked sausages on a disposable barbecue, my niece built sandcastles with Theo. The dogs ran around enjoying the space and we all marveled at how grains of sand manage to get into picnics however tight you bind the tin foil.

It’s been 8 years since I was in the UK for my birthday. Since then I’ve celebrated in the Falkand Islands, Canada, Cyprus and Scotland. I’ve marked the day in swimming pools or singing karaoke on remote farms, but it takes a lot to beat the English seaside.
We came home to a sewing machine cake cooked by Jim (didn’t he do well for a non-baker?) and homemade ice-cream in cornets. My sister said birthdays in February are never like this…. and she’s right. There is definitely an upside to being an August baby!

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