Home and Shop Companion 0073

letter from a small corner of far away

Dear Lynn, dear Everyone,

Last week I spent half an hour with my brother and sister-in-law, sitting in the shade of a Bramley apple tree they planted when they first moved to their house some thirty years ago, sheltering from the bright sun and indulging in a cup of tea – we are English after all!

I was on my way back home from a music course, where I was showing my instruments to potential customers; so much more satisfying to see familiar faces again and hear someone say, ’this sounds lovely,’ rather than packing and shipping boxes. Interrupting my three-hour return journey, it was good to see family again, too, the first time since my niece’s wedding last September. As we sat chatting, a big bird floated past, beyond the end of the garden.

‘What’s that?’ I asked, as the brownish, finger-winged raptor wheeled around.

‘A red kite.’ And then there was another, its mate. The pair, I was told, have a nest in the wood down the hill.

Home and Shop Companion 0073
A red kite at Bwlch Nant yr Arian, Wales
(photo from Wikipedia ©Etro0309)

Red kites are a novelty for me, though they are slowly widening their range we don’t have them around here. We do have buzzards, though, and I still get a thrill when I see one, although they are now common and I must see one at least three times a week, perching on top of an electricity pole, being harassed by crows, or swooping under the branches of the big oaks when disturbed by my presence. Their descending ‘mew’ of a call has the essence of the wild, something unusual and exhilarating in the measured landscape of England, but the thrill is also due to the novelty value, because although my children accept them as normal, I grew up in a time when there were hardly any birds of prey. In fact, my brother recalled the first time he ever saw one, a kestrel, when he was out exercising a hunter [heavyweight saddle horse] belonging to the landlord who was also my father’s employer. He was only fifteen or sixteen at the time, about forty five years ago, when the birds of prey had been nearly eliminated by pesticides like DDT building up in the environment, and gamekeepers were still killing anything to protect the pheasants bred for the rich and idle to shoot.

Once DDT was banned, when pheasant shooting could no longer support a gamekeeper’s wage and when legislation outlawed the indiscriminate destruction of these species, the kestrel numbers increased relatively quickly. The return of the buzzards has been slower, the kites slower still.

Reflecting on our conversations as I continued on my homeward journey, passing hundreds of poppies and millions of ox eye daisies on the now uncut verges of the motorways, and through corridors of trees that have been planted to isolate the noise of the highways, at least some things have improved since we were children, but dear me, has it been slow!

Take care,


William Castle is a violin maker, farmer & SFJ contributor who lives in Shropshire, England.

Home and Shop Companion 0073

Home and Shop Companion 0073