"Come on, if we don't go soon it will be dark before we get back," the Webmaster urges. It is early afternoon and usually by this time on a Sunday we are returning from our walk not just setting off.
Outside it is warmer than yesterday, but not so bright. It appears to be going dark but it is still only 14:30 so the overcast sky is more likely to be the cause of the gloom.
"I think we need to keep it short otherwise it will be dark before we get back and I haven't brought a torch," I say when we are half way down the lane, "we can go on the Tongue Lane and St. Anne's route. We should have time to go all the way down to the feeder."
"We should be OK for at least an hour and a half before we need torches. We can easily do that route in that time."
We both hear the buzzard at the same time. We are almost at the bottom of the lane, under the tunnel of trees, although without the leaves it is much less noticable. It sounds close. We look around and see the large bird settling onto the branch of a tree less than 25 metres away. It barely has time to fold its wings when two crows fly in. The buzzard takes to the air, wheels around and flies straight across our path, banking sharply, displaying the underside of its wings at full span.
"Wow," exclaims the Webmaster, "that's what I call a real bird." The buzzard disappears around the side of the hill. We cross the stile, carefully step over the mud and begin our climb up the hill.
"Real bird? All the birds are real birds."
"I like the big ones. Proper birds."
"You mean birds of prey? Just because they are easier to see and you can identify them. The little birds can be just as interesting."
"But we never manage to identify what they are. Nothing in the books ever seems to match."
"Well, that's why I've decided to learn to identify trees. They stand still long enough for me to get a good look. Actually when I was a kid I knew all the trees and most of the common wild flowers. I've forgotten them all. I think all kids learned how to identify trees in those days."
We reach the top of the hill.
"The only sunlight for millions of miles over there lighting up the Roaches," exaggerates the Webmaster, but sure enough in the overcast, grey gloom of the afternoon the Roaches stand out, light and colourful, the only bright patch in sight.
A runner turns in through the car park as we are leaving. Someone from our club. She is running well and quickly disappears over the hill.
"I wonder if she'll turn off down the track or go right to the end", mused the Webmaster.
We turn right, out onto the road and follow the lane back towards Tongue Lane where we turn left and head down into the valley to the feeder.
"They managed to repair the repairs to this road quite well," says the Webmaster. "That bloke looked like he was going to cry when he saw all the damage the rain did."
"Yeah. I don't think it can have set properly before it rained and that's why it all washed away."
We hear a vehicle approaching and move the dogs to the edge of the road. A small white van with distinctive orange lettering passes us.
"We've seen that van quite a few times on this road. I wonder whether he lives in one of the houses. Not many people use this as a way through to the main road." It is a quiet road and more times than not we don't see any vehicles at all.
"Oh well we can assume it isn't that UKIP bloke. The one who says he's paid over a million pounds in tax since 1960 something and all he has had in exchange is his pension. He obviously doesn't use roads. Or schools. Or medical services, police and so on. And he was an MP, well MEP, and he was paid by tax payers."
"The most frightening thing is that he has been complaining about money we pay to the EU and not getting anything back. If he can't recognise what his own national tax is used for then what chance he understands what we get for EU contributions?"
"But he's an MEP. Wouldn't he know?"
"He should, but maybe he doesn't want to find out. It seems to be an article of faith for UKIP members to beleive that the EU takes money from Britain and we get nothing in return apart from that which is disbursed in financial grants. Same as his tax and pension. Only the pension counts because that is the only benefit he's received as money. Anyway people don't like finding out something that upsets their personal beliefs. Like you. Imagine how you'd feel if you ever let any one convince you there's no point keeping all those old computers and electronics from the 80's 90's etc."
"It always looks a long way up to the church from here," commented the Webmaster as we turned at the feeder and began walking up the path towards the village."
"It must be more than a kilometer. Yesterday we had done something just over 6km at this point, I think about 6.4 at the stile and it was nearly 7.5km when we turned into the lane at the top."
"Well retro computing is a thing. It's popular."
"What's retro computing? Writing code to reproduce ping pong games, pacman and space invaders?"
"No, building computers that look like old ZX 80s."
"Well you don't need to build one. You must have one under a bed somewhere!"
"Oh haha. Very funny."
"Or did the Student take it to the tip when she cleared out all the junk you'd piled up in her room."
"It wasn't junk."
We pass the spot where we saw the buzzard yesterday. "I wonder if the buzzard we saw today is the same one that was here yesterday."
"There are quite a lot of buzzards around this year so probably not. I think there are some that live in the woods on our side of the hill and some that live down here."
At the top of the track we turn to walk through the village. We meet a fellow ex-runner and exchange greetings. There are more people about at this time than we usually see when passing here at lunch time; people at their gates welcoming or waving off visitors and some even setting out on their afternoon walks.
"I think we should get those storage cubes. If we plan it properly they will look good and it will make better use of the space."
"That's the thing. We need to plan. If they only come in units of one or two they will take a lot of fixing."
"We don't have to do them all at once. And I think we should get that other unit too and then decide if we still need the extra shelves. But really we need to get rid of a lot of stuff we'll never use."
"All those tea sets and dishes, jars, storage containers. I thought the girls could have used them when they left home. Save them some money buying new ones but they don't want our second hand stuff even if it has never been used. Heck, I had my grandma's cast off victorian horse hair settee until after the Student was born. And we used my mum and dad's first microwave oven until last year. They must have had at least three in the meantime. Anyway, are we ever going to grow and freeze our own food again or make our own marmalade and jam like I did when I was in my twenties? If not we can give the things away. Or are they too old fashioned now for anyone to be interested."
"We could start a museum."
We arrive back at the car park and walk up onto the hill. The light over the Roaches has gone. It is grey all around. As we pass the crest of the hill and start on the gentle downhill slope we see an elderly couple with a small dog approach. We shorten the leads on our dogs, but as the small dog draws level it barks aggressively and pull towards the Young Dog. The Old Dog ignores it but the Young Dog responds. The small dog is held firm on its lead but it is clearly strong for its size and its owner is struggling. She calls it to order and we move the Young Dog farther along the path and continue on our way.
"What's going on?" asks the Webmaster a few minutes later. We turn towards the sound of shouting and see a number of people running towards the bench at the top of the hill. "I heard dogs. It sounded like fighting. Maybe they are going to see what it is."
We can't see much from where we are, several hundred metres away, and soon the people disperse. We turn down the track, join the lane and head towards home. At the bottom of the lane we see the buzzard again. It is returning to the branch where it had attempted to settle earlier. Once again the crows mob it and it flies off.
"It doesn't seem to get any rest. It must be knackered if the crows never let it settle," said the Webmaster with some sympathy. "I know how it feels."