IT’S A crystal clear day among the gentle hills and burrows of the Blackmore Vale.
We linger over a scrumptious Sunday lunch in Buckland Newton’s whitewashed pub, the Gaggle of Geese, where goose auctions are held twice a year. (Delicious – Tuscan truffle shavings liberally scattered over my cep risotto.)
Round the corner, it’s the annual charity open gardens day at Domineys Yard, the seventeenth century home of a retired Ark Royal commander. But we can’t hang about, we’ve got a route to follow from Ann-Marie Edwards’ indispensible guidebook Pub Strolls In Dorset, and so we set off up lanes, past farms, valleys and woods, through meadows and over iron gates.
We stop to admire black sheep, badger setts and winding bridleways.
Then we are tramping up Barnes’s Lane – named after an ancestor of the Dorset poet William Barnes. The hedgerows are festooned with deadly nightshade, holly berries, and rosebay willowherb. We emerge onto a hilltop meadow occupied by a herd of young and solemn Charolais. They regard us gently, and edge away when we come near.
The air is keening with the calls of five or six buzzards circling above us. We follow a ridge path across the crest of Bladeley Hill. A Virgin hot air balloon hangs in front of us. A helicopter, and then a private plane fly low. The plane lands on a makeshift airstrip and taxis to a halt.
I snatch up my binoculars – could they be spies, smugglers? They’re next to a car with an open boot. Posh picnickers, perhaps.
Descending down Bladeley Hill, we buy free range eggs from an honesty box next to Court Farm. In the front garden of a nearby house we spot a helicopter. Whose?
Back home, I do a spot of research and root out a Telegraph cutting from 2006. Apparently a helicopter pilot who lived next door to Domineys Yard was hauled before Sherborne magistrates for flying low over his neighbour’s property and scaring visitors during the National Garden Scheme Open Day.
According to the BBC, the pilot – who was found not guilty of committing aviation offences – and the residents of Domineys Yard ‘were involved in a planning dispute at the time’.
Dear me. Looks like trouble’s been brewing in Paradise! Wonder if any low-flying aircraft disturbed the villagefolk today…