With the best hamburger I’d ever had (‘we do for farmers, so they know what’s good’ the happy Mobile Grill man explained. ‘So good I’ll have no sauce’, i say) in hand, along with two dogs on two leads – challenging – we found the footpath through a rusty metal gate.
I’d been here before, I said to myself, long ago. When I’d first come to Suffolk with a young Bob, a walking Bob, so that was long ago, when we’d arrived up in this landscape and adventured to the Minster near John Saunders South Elmham farm. It felt like finding a landscape of my dreams. Long narrow fields, strips of fields, edged with hedgerows left to grow their own course, unhindered by interference of man or machine banked up with huge alder and willow trees with rugged bark. Left alone but for the livelihood of cattle and the odd necessity of a gate.
The invitation – given the previous evening by the farmer, Philip, said ‘Countryside Evening, Beck Valley, Friday June 30th, 6pm to 8pm’. No further details necessary. No web page, phone number, no directions to Beck Valley. My Fiat 500 was dwarfed by Toyota’s and rugged ranger motors. I’d come to see Ben Loughrill (now ‘famous’ from BBC’s Countryfile) to go through the final cutting list for the wood cabin. He was here in the field amongst a handfull of other events programmed for this countryside two hours. Sensibly dressed people chatting easily in groups, Waveney Harriers holding on to their hounds. Truely Tracable Steve, still to find a munjac in my woods, touched base with me after some time. William Duncan’s 3 week old Goshawk (‘H is for Hawk, Helen’s a friend of mine; mad as a box of frogs’) was on an incongruous artificial grass tray, with a stuffed duck toy beside. I saw close to and touched a Siberian Eagle Owl. Ben did his chain saw Owl in 8 minutes, which Philip auctioned off for a quick 65, bought by a man who’s red headed children watched in awe at the front, their feet so easily crossed underneath them. So it was I finally came to the Mobile Grill and ordered my best hamburger, warmed by such honest earthy company, and countryside pursuits.
The Beck must have been a river tributory and the fields along side formed this ancient strip, so we walked in this timeless landscape, drawn on into the adventure. Thinking it was the minster building in the distant trees, we walked as far as St Georges Church (phoned Rupert), walked around, cocked legs, smelt smells, turned back. We met the cows half way. Unlike the obedient Kali, Bobji would not stay and the cows began to charge and effectively bared our way. A scramble under barbed wire, through thicket, briar and nettle, up into a field of beans, through a field of wheat, then barley, the cows keeping pace with us the other side of the hedge, until finally we clambered into the final field relieved to find no cows alongside. Our little silver bubble was the last remaining car.