In a normal year, we would consider walking the field paths or a stretch of the Essex Way and we would be stymied by the sticky mud, the long, wet grass and the occasional downright quagmire. But not this year. This is the year of the drought as far as Essex is concerned. Six weeks without significant rain; a few millimetres in April. The field paths are bone-dry and those across arable land have fissures two inches wide running along them. The crops will be early and meagre. Like the snow in December, it is a situation beyond our control.
My husband and I, not being farmers, have been able to enjoy longer walks this year. Last week we set out for Greenstead Green, a village with a farm shop and cafe, some four miles distant. To get there meant traversing Great Monk's Wood, something I have wanted to do for some time. In fact, stretches of coppiced woodland characterise this part of Essex. Last week we came across charcoal burning in a clearing.
Once the whole of Essex was designated as Royal hunting forest. My husband informs me that when Charles the First was unable to raise taxes as he had suspended parliament, he tried to tax those who had encroached on crown lands. I wonder what he would think of some of the palatial converted farmhouses here now. One has a sizable private fishing lake where we actually saw cormorants circling.
This is the progress so far on the Mitred Crosses throw, knit in 4-ply Shetland and scraps of sock yarn. I am pondering whether to put solid squares as spacers, and, if so, whether to knit them in bright sock yarn or a faded blue Shetland. Alternatively, I could just knit twenty-five of these squares: there is probably enough cream for that.