15/02/21 UK Deaths: 230. Harborough Infected: 205. The new variant of the coronavirus first detected in the UK last autumn is not only more infectious, but also 30-70% more deadly, based on a study by the UK government.
As if by magic, our week-long winter wonderland covering a white, powdery landscape was replaced overnight by the usual seasonal drab greys and greens. It just took a few degrees going in the right direction and a spot of midnight rain to create this disappearing act. Strong southerly winds pumping warm air from France, Spain and North Africa, a welcome export and free of tariffs gratefully received, keep it coming!
Pleased to free ourselves of the shackles of winter we pulled on our wellies and went for a ramble. Our 4.5-mile mile circular route began in the lovely village of Shearsby. Thick fog shrouded the surrounding countryside we made our way through the settlement, many of its buildings coming straight off the cover of a chocolate box. What a lovely atmosphere the place seemed to exude as we admired its many thatched and white-washed buildings. Such a shame that the village pub (The Chandlers) was Covid shut, lunch there would have finished off our little trek perfectly.
Our chosen route took us across partly frozen fields, their surface covered with a thin layer of watery melt that made walking a little arduous. Passing through the hamlet of Knaptoft, we tarried awhile watching some Greylag geese honking by the side of a series of ancient fishponds before setting off on a brief and unsuccessful search to find the remains of its church. Whatever was left of its previous structure, must have been underground and not obvious from the surface. We moved on.
Yet more fields with varying depths of muddy slick came our way as we headed towards Bruntingthorpe. The atmospheric conditions began to take a turn for the better, the fog and mist disappeared to be replaced by sunshine and warmth, necessitating the removal of hats, gloves and the unbuttoning of coats. Thank you southern Europe, keep it coming! We skirted the edge of the village before joining the well walked path of the Leicestershire Round, heading back towards Shearsby. It was along this section that we met a couple of ladies also out for a stroll, we stopped and exchanged pleasantries, noting that they had chosen to wear walking boots rather than wellies and had accumulated a thick layer of sludge from knees down.
The temperature was well into double figures by the time we had returned to the car, it felt like a summer’s day, what a change from yesterday!
Shrove Tuesday, pancake day! As a reminder, Charlotte thoughtfully shared her pancake making on family Messenger. Later in the day, the family suitably fortified with energy-giving pancakes took the fence down in the back garden to extend their property to the field fence.
Sarah had new neighbours move in next door and were pleased to discover they have children.
During the morning, my little Fiesta was booked into a local garage for a service and its annual MOT, passing with flying colours. Regrettably, it hasn’t done many miles this past year, just sat quietly in the garage keeping Sue’s Mini and Jamie’s quad bike company. Later on, we had a visit from Ruth and Nala. Ruth had arranged a meeting with some local developers who are converting Harborough’s Cottage Hospital into sheltered accommodation, she wanted to take some photos as part of her current Uni’ dissertation on ‘retrofitting’. Afterwards, she was planning on buying Nala a new coat, so we looked after the little ball of fun for an hour while she snapped away with her camera.
17/02/21 UK Deaths: 738. Harborough Infected: 175. Common UK garden animals like hedgehogs, rabbits and even the domestic cat have the potential to harbour new strains of corona-virus, a new study reveals.
First thing today, Sue visited the dentist for two fillings, a clean and polish. I had an early morning emergency call from Jamie to take his rabbit, Maddie to the vet. It hasn’t been eating for a couple of days and didn’t look well.
Earlier, during her morning run to the dentist, Sue’s clever little car informed her that she should either charge the battery or take it for a long drive. Under lock-down it has been mostly left to its own devices in the garage, with just rare trips into town, I suppose like the rest of us it just wants to get out more. It got its wish when I used it to pick up Maddie in Desborough and then drove to the vets, surprisingly located on the way to Leicester in the Langton’s Garden Centre. The rabbit’s diagnosis was that his digestive system had stopped. I came away with some medicine to re-hydrate the bunny, but also with a warning that in 50% of cases it is usually fatal. Fingers crossed for Maddie.
On her morning walk with Alice and Mia, Sarah spotted a rare guillemot, not often seen inland. The last time I came across one, was on a plate served up with vegetables and a blueberry sauce in Reykjavik, and very tasty it was too!
18/02/21 UK Deaths: 454. Harborough Infected: 171. Every adult in the United Kingdom could receive both doses of a Covid-19 jab as early as August, the head of the UK’s vaccine task force has said.
Good news on Maddie, after another visit to the vets and an antibiotic injection, he is starting to eat again and is nearly back to his old self. In Rothwell, the family dismantled one of the chicken coops, leaving the hens limited to scratching around in the main run. Poor Harry found it all too strenuous and had to have a lie-down.
Each afternoon, Sue and I have been researching our family ancestry and today I discovered a photo of a needlework sampler that one of the relatives on my father’s side (Hannah Smith aged 12yrs) completed in 1826. Presently I have researched back to the early 1700s though Sue has managed as far back as 1425, discovering a link with the Spencer family and Lady Diana. So far, I have found a lot of miners, agricultural workers, a farmer who was jailed for larceny at the age of 62 yrs and a miller. I am still looking hoping for a dukedom but a baronet would be fine. It is surprising how much fun it is digging into online archives, and of course, it does eat up those lock-down hours.
The weather forecast was for a reasonably dry morning with rain arriving during the afternoon, so we took the opportunity to stretch our legs and went for a four and a half-mile walk, starting from the nearby village of Saddington. In 1066 the village and surrounding land belonged to Queen Edith, the wife of Edward the Confessor, since then the manorial estate has passed through many hands until the rights of ownership were extinguished in 1877. Most of the houses in this compact village are constructed of fairly uninteresting red brick and range from the early 19th century to the present day. Among the smaller and older buildings mud walling still survives, there was an example of this adjacent to Manor Farm as we left the village, heading steeply downhill through fields towards Mowsely. The wet soil conditions again made wellingtons essential and the walking tricky.
Though the forecast temperature was an acceptable 9°, for most of the outward leg we were walking into a stiff cold wind that chilled to the bone, making what little shelter there was alongside hedgerows most welcome. Our route took us through a small but pretty valley, thankfully keeping us on the slope above a full Saddington Brook wriggling its way northeast towards the reservoir. As we passed the abandoned Peashill Farm, we spent a little time wondering whether the buildings could be converted into homes, but eventually decided the location would be too remote for most.
As we neared Mowsely, we had to descend a steep and very muddy track-way, passing several ancient fish ponds before crossing Mowsely Brook and climbing again into the village itself. The village is Saxon in origin and smaller than Saddington. Intriguingly its name originates from the word Muslai, which translates as ‘mouse infested field’. We stopped a while at a red telephone box in the centre of the settlement; as is so often the case these past communication facilities now store books for exchange, a defibrillator or are an information point. This one was of the latter and we came away with a booklet containing info’ on an interesting looking village trail. We left the settlement following the narrow Saddington Road as far as the aptly named Valley View Farm, where we descended the steep slope to Mowsely Brook. The rest of the trail followed the watercourse, along which we squidged our way until crossing via a pretty little wooden bridge only to climb again towards the boundary of Saddington village. Annoyingly, the mud had not finished with us. The area around the gate opening onto the lane which lead into the village was in a condition that would not have been out of place in the Everglades, Okavango or the Niger Delta! I chose to creep along the left hedge and Sue opted for the right (there was obvious doom the middle way), several times both of us got wellies stuck, it took lots of precarious tugging and wiggling to get them unglued. After a considerable delay to our projected ETA, we arrived back at Sue’s Mini. An enjoyable tramp, certainly worth doing again in drier conditions, particularly when the Staff of Life (Mowsely) and the Queen’s Head (Saddington) are once again open for custom.
The forecast rain duly arrived in the afternoon, timing its onset just as I mounted my bike to cycle to the GP Surgery for the first of the Pfizer Covid injections. Sue’s vaccinations were scheduled 10 minutes after mine and she too chose a wet ride to saviour. We both joined the end of a long queue that stretched from the entrance to the roadside. As a testament to the efficiency of the NHS, the line moved quickly. After being registered, warned, pricked and thanked we were soon sitting in ‘departure’ waiting out the obligatory 15 minutes adverse reaction check, before being allowed home.
That evening Jamie informed us that he has been furloughed at work and will be having next week off. The company have been rotating furlough on weekly basis since last March and up until now Jamie has been exempt, he is looking forward to it.
20/02/21 UK Deaths: 445. Harborough Infected: 125. Boris Johnson has pledged that every adult in the UK should be offered a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of July.
Despite being warned that we will feel grotty for a few days, the only adverse reaction to the vaccine felt by either of us was the usual sore arm. A relatively quiet day was punctuated by a visit from (recently vaccinated) Jim to watch Tigers surprisingly beat local rivals Wasps on BTsport. Though still observing social distancing it was a small and welcome taste of previous normality.
21/02/21 UK Deaths: 215. Harborough Infected: 158. More than 17.5 million people have had their first dose of a vaccine, which appears to reduce chances of transmitting the disease by “about two-thirds”.