SPYING on red deer from afar makes me hanker for a long lens.
Crossing plank bridges through a tangled wood, we find them standing tall in the frozen meadows before dashing to cover, heart-shaped white bottoms leaping high, away.
We catch our breath, too, when a buzzard – big and black and yellow and white and brown – hurls itself towards us, in pursuit of a smaller bird. It clocks us, hangs in the air for one glorious split second, and wheels off again.
We meet horses, ponies, sheep, dogs, cats and even three quite civilised, Wellington-booted children on our wanderings through Corscombe and its sister hamlet West Chelborough.
There is evidence of other species all around. A sign warns ramblers and other livestock about ducks waddling between fields and climbing tracks. A thundering of hoof marks at the top of the ridge suggests a stampede of wild horses (or, more likely, the Cattistock Hunt, given our proximity to Charlotte Townshend’s country pile).
West Chelborough is utterly charming. Round the corner from Dairy House Farm, a couple of cottages give way to an ancient church. A Victorian post box and vintage telephone kiosk splash redly into view. We climb up a winding lane to a track opening up breathtaking views of the West Dorset downs.
It’s been a hard winter: low sunlight weakly winks from frosted puddles. Troughs sag with ice. We tramp down, down the valley and to the gingham-frothed, stone-flagged dim sanctuary of the Fox Inn.