We left the new arrivals to settle in with minimal disturbance and used the 'free time' (what a blessed phrase that is...) to do some reconnaissance work. My 40th birthday is coming up this month (what a horrible phrase that it...) and I wanted to start the decade as I mean to go on, with a spirit of adventure. So Mike and I are planning to ride our horses from their stable to a little field we own about 10 miles away, camp overnight with dogs & horses, and ride them back to their stables the next day. It'll be the longest ride Mike's done since his accident but he assures me he's feeling up to it. I don't doubt it - he's as tough as they come.
We drove out the back roads and checked the map to get our bearings and make sure that bridle paths and rights of way were in usable shape.
The horses are fit, the route is mapped; it all looks good for our trip. Now we just need a whole weekend of good weather between now and the end of the month, which is not as likely as it sounds. I suppose if I really had a spirit of adventure I would ride regardless of the rain.
And just in case you didn't believe me that our roads were a little 'rustic' -
On the way back we decided to pick some wild plums, which are in shorter supply than the sloes. We only know of one tree on the estate. While picking, Pete the underkeeper came by on his quad. He'd just seen a group of wild pigs on Slights Field (all the estate fields seem to have a name), and he was off home to get his gun. We couldn't resist the opportunity for wild pig meat meat, so I got my big rifle and joined him.
I say 'wild pig' instead of 'wild boar' because in this case it is domestic pigs that have broken free from a pig farm and become feral. You can tell the difference by color: pigs are usually a solid color and boar are striped. Wild boar and domestic pigs can breed and produce viable offspring, and the smell of a female domestic pig in oestrus will attract wild boar. The male (boar) will break through fences to get to her, then it's a free for all.
This little group had a great white sow (Moby Pig?) as its matriarch, and some slightly smaller ginger and dark pigs with her, and a litter of very small stripy boar piglets. Wild pigs or boar are jumpy and very difficult to stalk. They are on the move all the time; you have to shoot them when you see them or they're gone. It took us less than 10 minutes to get our guns and get to the field and they were already heading for the woods. We tried to split them and run them to where one of us could take a shot. No luck. That's pig shooting for you.
Here's a sign of pigs working a field. Small patches of the sward are turned over where they root for worms and small invertebrates with their snouts. Badgers will do this too, but on a much smaller scale.
I waited for an hour but saw nothing; I caught a lift back with Pete on the quad. On the way home we did see a beautiful roe doe. She probably had a youngster somewhere nearby. Had that been a buck, I would have had something for the freezer, but I have the memory of that graceful deer silhouetted against the hill. And a bucketful of wild plums for jam.