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Fair Maids Of February

Monday March 2nd, weather same as it was an hour ago

Saturday, 28th March, a cool, still, calm day; grey cushiony clouds netted in a web of gilt, light the colour of candlelight. We drove out to Duncton to visit the famous native daffodils. This is all heathland, sandy underfoot, deadened, soundless walking through the tall pinewoods of Duncton Common, fenced transition to Lavington, the National Trust's purist swathes of last year's heather. Not quite the season for adders, but plenty of birds. At Burton House we admired the old Norman church, with some remarkable C16 brasses, including Lady Elizabeth Goring, kneeling at prayer in a heraldic tabard and riding dress. Why the male attire? Lost in the mists of time, but she's the only woman dressed like this on any C16 memorial in England (It says here, in the guide provided). Shallow indents in the stone show where her husband and her children used to be pinned. Further on, by a clear murmuring, winding stream, sheaves of perfect snowdrops warned us we'd come too early for the show on the headland above. Darn it, the host, the throng beneath the trees all present but all but a handful still firmly sheathed. Never mind, even one small native daffodil, candlelight trumpet, gold rays, freshly unfurled, is easily worth a walk in the woods.

Shock, horror, the pub at Graffam, The Foresters' Arms (more heraldry) is SHUT. As in foreclosed, as of 12 Feb, with the sticker for the Good Pub Guide 2009 still in the window. We suspect the proud insistence on "Traditional Hours" may have been the leasees' undoing. You just can't not be open all afternoon, especially at weekends, when every other pub in the countryside has capitulated. So, anyway, we had sandwiches and coffee at the village shop instead, and probably were no worse off. See that tally up at the top? That's my lenten alcohol fast. Can't say I feel hugely renewed or purified yet, but I'm sure it's going to do me good.


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