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Ancient Feet: Buzzard Alarm!

...I had not walked far before I felt a rush of air above my head and heard a 'whoosh' as the buzzard swooped from behind and must have missed the top of my head by no more than a whisker...

Alan Nolan, continuing his highly entertaining account of walking from one side of England to the other with his mates, tells of close encounters with a large bird of prey.

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From the M6, the walk continued with the traffic in view for some time and the noise for longer. Having passed through Hardendale Quarry, the wonderful walk to Orton ensued. The limestone countryside was entirely different to what had gone before, lacking the rugged grandeur of the Lake District, but wonderful in a contrasting way and great walking country.

As usual, Paul had forged ahead but, this time, I was pleased to see that Don was keeping pace with him. Now that we were out of the Lake District, the walking was much easier (although the distances longer) and perhaps Don was stronger now after four days of strenuous walking, not to mention four days of reducing the size of his onion! However, not much more than an hour later, we caught up with Don who was now on his own and looking the worse for wear, having been unable to sustain Paul's pace, so we stopped for a drinks break.When we got up to leave,Tom was again fumbling with his pack and battling to fit his towel on top of all his other belongings.

'I'm sure I didn't have as much as this before. I managed to get everything in yesterday' Eventually, he completed his packing and the four of us walked together towards Orton. Tom decided he would divert from the Wainwright route as he had seen another, more direct, footpath shown on the OS map, but I walked on the 'official' route, agreeing to meet the others in Orton.

As I walked down a field towards Broad Fell Farm, within striking distance of the village, I noticed a buzzard overhead, making those ridiculous squeaking noises which sound so absurd for such a powerful bird. I was walking downhill with a drystone wall to my right and with a copse ahead on the other side of the wall. As I drew level with the copse, the buzzard swooped down at about head height no more than ten yards in front of me and flew into the copse. I was surprised at just how large the buzzard is at such close quarters and after a few more paces, I stopped and saw the bird no more than twenty yards or so away sitting on a branch in the copse and looking straight at me. This was a wonderful moment and I stood for a short time taking in the view of this magnificent bird. I thought that its behaviour was slightly unusual but continued down the path.

I had not walked far before I felt a rush of air above my head and heard a 'whoosh' as the buzzard swooped from behind and must have missed the top of my head by no more than a whisker. It wheeled away to the right and back into the copse. What amazed me was that I had not heard a thing until it was over my head and it made me realise that its prey has no warning whatsoever.

This event made me wary (I could have been Wary Spice or even Scaredy Spice) and I kept looking over my shoulder every few seconds. However, without warning, there was another rush of air above my head and another 'whoosh' as it made another swoop from behind and again wheeled away into the copse. At that moment, I would have gladly joined the Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds. For a second time, I had had no warning of its approach but I was now extremely wary and looked over my shoulder every other second. It wasn't long before it made another attempt but, this time, I was prepared for the assault and waved my arms and shouted 'buzz off you blooming buzzard.' All right, those weren't the exact words but I did use a similar alliterative phrase involving the letter B. Come to think of it, it was the exact same phrase I use whenever I see Tony Blair or Gordon Brown on the news, simply substituting 'buzzard' for 'Blair' or 'Brown' but at least it caused it to abort its attack. It must have realised that I could do serious damage with an Ordnance Survey map in my hand. I was now past the copse and, although I kept looking over my shoulder, there were no further attempts to 'buzz' me. Perhaps this is the derivation of the word buzzard.

A few moments later, I reached the gate into the farmyard at Broad Fell Farm and, before I could open the gate, an old farmer emerged into the yard. I shouted to him to check that the path did, indeed, pass through the farmyard and he pointed to a gate on the other side of the yard and mumbled, somewhat reluctantly it seemed, that the path went through the yard to the other gate. As I entered the yard, I said that I had just been buzzed by the buzzard and enquired whether there had been any other similar incidents. He replied that he had not heard of anything but that his eyesight is not so good these days so that he could not tell whether birds circling the copse were buzzards or crows but, after thinking about it for a short time, he remembered a previous incident:

'There were a chap who came through here, now let me think, it must have been thirty-five years back and t'buzzard had had a go at him, and he had blood on his head.' He considered this for a few moments and then added 'mind you, he were ginger.' Well, this explained everything.


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