Snippets of Downshire Life – Natural Hobbies
The Finchbottom Vale nestles comfortably between the Ancient Dancingdean Forest to the south and the rolling Pepperstock Hills in the north, and to the east, 15 miles inland from Sharpington-By-Sea, equidistant between the seaside resort and Pepperstock Green was the rambling village of Brookley and at its heart was St Mildred’s Church and Susan Peach, amongst other things published the Parish Magazine, but she was also a Chorister like her cousin Roy.
However all the time she spent working for the Church was unpaid so she had to work as well.
She was fortunate enough to have found a job at Wellham Farm, or more precisely the Wellham Barns which were both large and numerous, too numerous for the needs of the farm, so many of them had been converted into storage spaces, popular with companies wishing to house their archives off site, theatrical and film companies storing sets and costumes, and St Mildred’s church who stored a variety of things there, Santa’s Grotto, all the stalls for Fete’s and Bazaars, processional items, the nativity scene and costumes of all shapes sizes and uses.
Had she not had her faith she would just have thought herself fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, but as it was she was sure that a divine hand had been at work.
She had travelled the four miles from the village with her cousin Roy, and Emily Sanders in the latter’s car, in order to locate the St Mildred’s Lark props and paraphernalia which were required in order to prepare for the Church’s Community Event over the following week.
It was not her first time there but it was the first occasion on which she met Sam Wellham, and she was instantly smitten.
He was about five years older than her, tall, blond, and tanned, and Susan thought he was a six foot tall hunk of gorgeousness.
Sam managed the storage side of the farms business and he only had one full time employee to assist him and he had just quit, he led them to the appropriate barn and unlocked the door.
“You’ll have to manage on your own today” he said
“Why? Are you short staffed?” Emily asked
“No, I’m no staffed as on twenty minutes ago”
“I’m looking for a job” Susan blurted out
“Do you live in Brookley?” he asked
“So did the last person and he was always late” Sam stated
“Well I can vouch for the fact that she’s annoyingly punctual”, Roy said “in fact she is punctual to the point of obsession”
“She will never ever be late” Emily added “Because she is half an hour early for everything”
“I am still here you know” Susan said and blushed
“And what can you do when you get here?” he asked with a smile
“Whatever she’s asked to” Emily answered
“Thanks mum” Susan said
“Ok come and see me before you leave and we can have a chat” Sam said and headed back to the office.
Emily, who had another motive for being at the barns, namely ensnaring Roy, had just entered the barn when a thought occurred to her, which was that getting Roy alone in the barn might give her the chance she had been looking for, so she said
“Susan! Why don’t you go and talk to Sam now?”
She opened her mouth to protest but Emily quickly continued
“Strike while the irons hot, I’m sure Roy and I can manage to locate the bits we need while you’re busy with Sam”
“Oh ok, if you’re sure” Susan said
“Absolutely” Emily assured her
Susan was feeling apprehensive and excited in equal measure as she walked across the yard, she knew only too well why Emily had urged her to go and find Sam and it wasn’t to help her get a job.
But then she wasn’t entirely sure if that was her primary reason for either.
When she left Brookley that morning she had no expectations about the trip other than to assist with Church business.
But when she first laid eyes on Sam Wellham, who she thought was gorgeous, she quickly forgot the reason she was there and which was why she remarked impulsively that she was looking for a job.
Not that she thought that she had any chance with him, after all he was buff and she was just ordinary, and she was five years younger and less worldly wise.
She was in truth however looking for another job, as her part time position at Stephenson’s Supermarket wasn’t paying enough, but on the plus side the shop was only a five minute walk from her home, whereas Wellham Farm would be a four mile bike ride.
He asked her about her work experience, qualifications and other skills she might have, and he seemed happy with her replies and nodded as he took notes.
“So how are you going to get here every day?”
“By bike” she replied
“Oh that might be a problem, the job does involve some driving”
“Oh I can drive” she said
“I just can’t afford to run a car”
“Good that’s another box ticked then”
“I can see straight away that you’re really fit” he said “I mean, in good shape”
He flushed and took a drink before continuing
“What I meant to say was that you are clearly physically capable of doing the manual work, but Paperwork and good record keeping are key to what we do here”
“I understand” she said and smiled, she thought it was cute when he got all flustered, and it made her like him even more.
“Right well I’ll explain to you the basics on the documentation and then you can do the transaction with St Mildred’s so I can see if you’ve grasped the essentials”
“Ok” she replied brightly
After checking and logging the reference numbers on the advice note, one for the box that Emily had returned and one for the boxes they were taking with them, she handed it to Emily for signature, and when she got it back she tore off a copy for Emily and handed the other one to Sam.
After perusing the paperwork he nodded and said
“When can you start?”
Emily sat in the car while Roy loaded the boxes into the back and Susan was finalising the details with Sam.
When she emerged from the office she said goodbye over her shoulder as she got back into the car, and she was feeling very pleased with herself on the drive back to Brookley.
Susan liked working at Wellham Barns and over the weeks that followed she enjoyed it more and more, but she also found herself falling deeper and deeper in love with Sam with each passing day.
But the one thing that didn’t alter with the passing of time was her belief that she had any kind of chance with him, after all what would a buff, intelligent and worldly older man, possibly see in a nerdy girl on the geeky side of ordinary who spent most of her spare time out in the wilds of Downshire photographing wildlife, as far as she could see they had absolutely nothing going for them and nothing in common.
In the middle of June as they neared the summer solstice the days were longer and the evenings brighter with twilight pushed back to 10 o’clock so when the weekend arrived she was up before first light on Saturday and set off on her bike, she already had her backpack ready, with everything in it she needed to last her the day, her camera, food and drink, while the Kings River Woods Nature Reserve would provide the rest.
The Woods ran from the outskirts of Sharpington as far as the Dulcets, the Dulcets being a collection of villages and hamlets comprising of Dulcet Meadow, Dulcet St Mary, Dulcet Green and Dulcet-on-Brooke to name but a few and it was the latter where Susan was riding towards via the riverside path beside of the River of the same name.
Once she reached Dulcet-on-Brooke she had to secure her bike in the village and proceed into the reserve on foot.
The Kings River Woods were open to everyone for a variety of recreational pursuits but the Reserve did not permit vehicles of any kind and even horses were restricted and dog walkers had to keep their pets on a lead within the confines of the Reserve.
She really liked the fact that all but those interested in the flora and fauna of the woods were permitted free access to them, as her greatest passions were Wildlife and Photography.
Within the reserve there were a good number of hides which enabled, with a combination of time, patience and a good camera, those who possessed all three virtues to capture perfect images.
The hides were many and various, some were at ground level while others were high beneath the canopy and other that were somewhere in between.
The differences in locations were such because of the differences in the people who used them, if you were primarily interested in birds, then the high hides best suited your needs, while if you favoured large mammals then the low ones were for you, but for Susan she had no preference and she had used them all at some time or other, she was interested in all Wildlife, large or small, furry or feathered.
She switched from hide to hide, depending of the time of year, or the conditions or just a whim, it was the latter on that Saturday, and she chose the one sat on the top of a low hill and was a medium height location offering a view across a large meadow and the tops of the trees that surrounded it.
The hide was buried under a grassy bank, which always reminded her of the Teletubbies, which made her smile, but she knew even on a hot day it would be cool in there, she just hoped the she would have it to herself.
She didn’t want to have to engage in conversation with anyone, she was just there to indulge her passion for Wildlife and Photography.
She quietly opened the door and stepped inside and closed the door behind her and then she turned around and her heart sank, as someone had got there before her, but then her fortunes changed as her companion turned their eyes on her and she was surprised to see it was Sam Wellham, and when he recognised her he smiled.
So it seemed that they did have something in common after all and so
It appeared she would be enjoying all three of her passions on one glorious day.