Christmas 2021 newsletter
2021 arrived with yet another lockdown. Okel Tor Mine was so quiet but what a place for us to be holed up in. February saw some absolutely fantastic weather and gave us the opportunity to carry out further renovations. The Count House cottage had, years before, been very badly repointed with hard cement mortar. This is a big no-no in the world of historic buildings. To us it was an eyesore and needed to be dealt with. However, we were dreading what we’d discover once we started. Fortunately the previous job hadn’t been done particularly well and the cement could be removed quite cleanly - took Nick a week though. Now for the rewarding part. Over a couple of weeks Nick painstakingly repointed the whole cottage. One ton of specially matched lime mortar and over half a mile of joints - all done with a tiny trowel two inches long. Nick is now extremely familiar with every stone of the Count House. He found the whole process quite therapeutic…
The Smithy also received attention and we're happy to say that the dreaded leaking veranda roof has been ﬁxed. It was unfortunate that it used to drip right over the very place people sat - sometimes without warning!
Now onto the wildlife… Some of you may recall that we had an incident with a duck stuck in the eighty foot chimney that is very much a feature of Nick's tin mine house. Well, in April another duck dropped in. At least we knew what to do. Nick set up large dust sheet as a curtain to prevent the bird ﬂying round the house, opened the front door, then removed the glazed panel at the base of the chimney. All we had to do was wait. It took a while but ﬁfteen minutes later he decided that the bright green world outside was nicer than the dark sooty world he was currently in. With a slap-slap of webbed feet on slate and a quack-quack he left the building. Job done…
Ducks just love it here. A couple of days later we had a whole family camped out on the grass. Mum, dad, a ﬂeet of ducklings plus a couple of uncles keeping an eye on things. We’re ﬁfty feet above the river and clearly that’s where ducks are meant to be. They hatched a plan then suddenly it was time to go. Off went the adults - racing to the edge of the garden, little feathery balls in pursuit. The big ducks have no problem in barging their way through the brambles and undergrowth but it’s a mighty big challenge if you weigh little more than an ounce. They scuttled, bounced and tumbled their way down and eventually plopped into the river. Life’s adventure had now begun…
The fowl story doesn’t end there - oh no. A week later we hear another commotion in the chimney. Another duck? Here we go again. Nick peered into the ﬁve foot access tunnel and could barely believe what he saw on the other side of the glass. A goose - a thumping great Canada goose! Its wingspan greater than the diameter of the ﬂue. It must have just plummeted down the eighty feet - although possibly cushioned a bit by the column of air being compressed. Silly goose. What on earth was going through its tiny little mind when it was standing at the top..?
When you’re on your hands and knees looking up at a standing goose it can be quite intimidating. It was pecking at the glass. It was angry. Will the duck evacuation plan work with a goose we wondered. Only one way to ﬁnd out…
Again, Nick set up the curtain and opened the door. That was the easy bit. He crawled into the tunnel and detached the glass panel. He used it as a kind of riot shield and retreated. The goose was more confused than anything else and remained where it stood. With relief Nick exited the tunnel backwards and sought refuge behind the curtain. He waited - a long time. Eventually a louder-than-a-duck slap-slap of webbed feet on slate could be heard and slowly out it came. The smell of fresh air and freedom was clearly not strong enough as it tried to ﬁnd a way behind the curtain and into the kitchen. Luckily it couldn’t and eventually out the front door it went - quietly honking as it did. Six days later another bloomin’ duck! What’s got into these birds?
Why, after 23 years and one isolated incident, has chimney diving become so popular amongst ducks and geese is anyone’s guess. We’ll never know but can tell you now that it won’t happen again. A wire grille is being installed.
It’s never dull at Okel Tor Mine.
Guests who’ve stayed over the last couple of years may recall ongoing works in the ﬁelds alongside the river footpath to the village. The Environment Agency were creating ponds and channels in advance of breaching the river bank - all part of ﬂood mitigation. Well, in October, the diggers made the ﬁnal cut and the whole area is now connected to the river. It’s quite a sight to see the area as one huge lake - though this will only happen on the higher spring tides. It will be interesting to see how this new inter-tidal habitat will develop and what new species of birds and mammals make it their home. It will be quite an asset for the village.
We hope that you’ve been able to make the best of things this year and sincerely hope that 2022 will be one to remember - for all the right reasons.
Seasons Greetings and Good Health to you all!
With love from Nick, Greg & Jess