Country diary: A golden glint in the gwynt | Jim Perrin

14. ledna 2023 11:00


Painscastle, Powys: Their plaintive call, their shimmering appearance - the golden plover should inspire nothing but delight in usBitter-bright, golden towards sundown, the cold blast streams harsh across Ireland Moor. The Welsh phrase for this wind, gwynt o draed y meirwon, translates as "wind from the feet of the dead". A score of golden plovers hurl past where I stand, surfing upon it. They're gold-flecked, their slender outlines etched with black. Suddenly they drop to the surface of the moor - not to where the heather's at its most dense, but to where it's interspersed with leads of grass along which they pursue their staccato scurryings. A glint of water at the spring-line feeds into reedy flushes that join up to form a small lake in wet seasons.Good plover-nesting territory, this, but they're not here for nesting yet. There are wintry months still to be endured before that sweet time arrives. As if of one accord, the flock lifts off and whirls past me again, alighting this time to feed across molehill-studded pastures behind ash tree-shaded ruins of the old keeper's cottage. They probe into mounds of loose earth for chilled worms within. I lift my glass, focus, and feast on the beauty of their plumage.It's a richer feast than the plovers are finding, though. Soon they're airborne again, scattering away past a nearby pool. There are shooting butts at its end, where tweed-clad gentlemen crouch in their seasons to kill this red-list species that incomprehensibly still features on "sporting" quarry lists. The sun has sunk behind Yr Elenydd. Our pool takes on a gunmetal sheen under a rising full moon. I ponder this wicked urge to destroy even the endangered and beautiful, and think of the lovely, plaintive quality of the plovers' call-note, surely the characteristic sound of wild uplands in Britain, haunting and redolent. You can hear it in the flow country of Sutherland, or across Tooleyshaw Moss in the High Peak, and always here in the kindly hills of Radnorshire. To think that "sportsmen" slaughter the gorgeous, gentle creatures that make it batters my heart. Obscurely, there comes to mind the scene from Gabriel Axel's film Babette's Feast, where General Löwenhielm picks out a quail from Babette's signature dish of cailles en sarcophage, crunches the skull and sucks out the brain. Delicacy, or barbarism? Continue reading...


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