Seven Cygnets Swimming

THE river is like a scene from The Wind In The Willows.

Apparently kingfishers and otters live along this stretch of the River Stour. We meet a family of swans with seven quite large cygnets. Seven! How did they survive predators, we wonder, looking upwards as a buzzard calls?

We’re picnicking along the river banks between Hinton St Mary and Sturminster Newton. We disturb a bunch of startled guinea fowl, a squirrel and a rabbit, as well as a group of teenage boys skinny-dipping in the weir at the Cutt Mill.

The air is heavy with the smells of rosemary, cut grass, hay and manure. We hear cattle lowing, tractors revving, bees humming.

Butterflies dance across our path as lanes and tracks wind over hills and through dim woodland.

We reach some all weather gallops – odds are they belong to Olympic eventer William Fox-Pitt, who runs the Fox-Pitt Eventing stables at Wood Lane, just round the corner.

We scythe a path through serried ranks of maize towering above our heads.

And I suddenly realise I’ve fallen in love with the Blackmore Vale, hush, lush and still.

Back in the village of Hinton St Mary, we have a quick pint in the darling pub garden of the The White Horse Inn, and drool at the lavish, landscaped gardens of the manor house, ancient homestead of the Pitt-Rivers family.

The Manor House

The rest of the village is quaint: a set of stocks adorn the sign for the Village Garden, built in 1999 by Charlie Dimmock and the Ground Force team. Inside we find a small orchard, including some cider apple trees. Would we be able to come scrumping here? I might ask the parish council…

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