The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Going back

daffodils and moatIt’s over a year since I began working at Anna’s house, deep in the Essex countryside. It was a great job and the start of a good friendship. Anna is fun. She is also curious, sensitive and brave. If I was forced to go on a walking holiday in Cleethorpes, I’d love the resourceful Anna to be by my side.

Today I cleared Jalopy and headed for Saffron Walden. It was a happy trip. Collected my stuff from Mike’s house and tweaked his staircase just hours before his dinner party. Then I took the long road from Saffron Walden to Anna’s old farmhouse.

Anna has finally left the isolated farmhouse and is now living in the heart of Saffron Walden in a romantic hideaway that has also experienced the swish of my brush.

As Anna’s old house is vacant and just about to be put on the market, my visit was a practical indulgence. I went to collect the fat roll of chicken wire that I’d bought from Anna last summer and have a look at the house for the very last time. I have a few days off next week and the chicken wire had suddenly moved from the lowest position in the chorus to a pivotal Diva role.

Jalopy’s wheels sped over the new gravel drive and we parked in our old spot. All thoughts of chicken wire were jettisoned. I crept through a sea of daffodils to the frayed old barn beside the pond to spy on the moorhens. Perhaps they had young? I spotted a solitary moorhen rushing for cover with giant steps. It was clearly too early for chicks.

This is a magical place bursting with wildlife. I stared across the sweep of fields towards the copse where I had seen a white hart deer for the very first time. Then traced the moat that nearly circles the house and imagined the family that would move in and adapt Anna’s stamp. Her mark is there in the hyacinths luxuriating against the south facing wall, the chicken house on its sturdy stalk, the vegetable patch and so much more.

Every occupant of a house leaves an impression. When we move in we just add to this. Even if you are lucky enough to be able buy a house, you are only a keeper. Houses live for hundreds of years.

I sauntered slowly back to the house. There was the sweep of narcissus that delighted me last year and bewitched Anna’s two young girls. Often they would burst through the door with an armful of flowers.

This afternoon I missed you Anna.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate(uk)

    How good to hear nestlings so early in the year! I do hope that they survive the storms today.

    Hi Moonroot

    The old farmhouse is a beautiful place in the spring and very romantic with the moat and the large natural pond.

    Hi Louisa

    So pleased that you enjoyed the post. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  2. Louisa

    I wish i was there, it sounds like a lovely place. Your post has cheered me up. x

  3. moonroot

    What a lovely post! It has made me fall in love with a place I have never seen, and look at my own home with renewed appreciation. Thank you.

  4. Kate(uk)

    It may be too early for Moorhens, but I heard nestlings calling for food from the other side of an old ivy covered brick wall a week ago.We have had some cold nights since then and yesterday when I walked past again, I didn’t hear them, but I heard another lot further down the road on a South facing stretch of the wall.

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