For me the second half of 2011 disappeared in a blur of motorways and anonymous hotel rooms. Rising each morning, sometimes Paradise Valley was many hundreds of miles away but my constant companions, Carla and Capone, still needed their exercise. We had to find our own local paradise wherever we were. Fortunately, tap a postcode into Google Maps and satellite view soon shows the way. Even when surrounded by flyovers and underpasses we always managed to find somewhere to escape for an hour or so.
Returning home to real paradise is always rewarding. Cutting back through Whitcombe from the A35, as you climb to the crest of Plaisters Lane, the valley opens up before you. That warm feeling of reunion is not to be missed and the following morning the dogs and I would tackle the hill with new enthusiasm.
The conversion of the western end of the valley from arable to organic livestock is almost complete. The infrastructure has been overhauled with new fences, gates and water troughs. Black Aberdeen Angus cattle have already cropped the main field with its first short back and sides and spread a good layer of organic fertiliser. They seem more docile than the Friesians that have often chased us at the other end of the valley but a lot more vocal. They’re not shy of making one hell of a noise if disturbed.
Winter hasn’t hit properly yet. I haven’t seen any frost while I’ve been at home. What I have noticed is that it’s been an excellent season for fungi. One morning I found a couple in the field behind the waterworks filling carrier bags with mushrooms. All over the valley in all shapes, sizes and colours, I have been astonished at the variety. In what I think of as the wild flower field, right in the heart of the valley, I found a puffball one day but last week I found a crop of enormous, portabella-like mushrooms, each at least 12 inches across.
At least, I think they were mushrooms. I’m afraid that’s one experiment I don’t have the courage for. Even those little pointy ones that are supposed to act like a magic carpet for hopes and dreams, they’ve never passed my lips. Well before we had some socialist- inspired nanny state that dictates what you can or cannot put into your own body, I decided against that particular form of psychedelia.
Once out in the valley, the dreadful atmosphere of financial chaos and depression that seems to rule our world is just irrelevant. Provided you start with a full belly, and cheap porridge oats are just if not more effective than the finest back bacon, then the real world is your oyster. Saunter through the water meadow, alongside the stream, I have memories of it gushing with a torrent three foot deep and then of the wild lilies in the spring. A new gateway provides access back into the main field and there is no better route than directly to the base of the hill and up the long path that crosses its face, beneath the white horse and rising towards the eastern end of the valley. Then it is only a few short paces before the Dorset plain spreads 30 or 40 miles in front of you while behind is the dramatic Jurassic coast, the ocean and Portland.
Grab this while you can. Before age and infirmity prevents you, before the impending disaster in the harbour takes hold and swamps our small town with invaders. While government, both local and national, destroys our country, at least for a few years yet we can stride to the top of the hill, breathe in the free air and believe in beauty and liberty and paradise!