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Near Cranborne Chase

Where one country estate rolls alongside another, farms and woodland, villages and hills, and daft pheasants run along the hedgerows working out whether they want to race beside the road or just cross it and be damned. Guy Ritchie lurks around here somewhere, as does the guy who invented the stairlift. Here my sister-in-lawish has her livery stables, and her little house is full of happiness, surrounded by 30-odd resident horses, 11 dogs, 4 chickens, three chicks, one not quite feral cat, two grey kittens, and her foster daughter, whose head is full of spooky stories, Disney, Percy Jackson and Harry Potter.

Just walking in to the yard, the smell of horses and hay lifted us up. It's a kind smell. We were introduced to the horses including one big fellow with a lump on his forehead from a wound received when he was very young...or, let's be honest, probably a unicorn in transition; two arabs, one shining black and one white, the latter with a speckled pinkness along her muzzle, a dapple grey with a white mane, and a charcoal coloured horse with a black and white tail. Most perk up their ears and nuzzle your hands to see if you've brought a treat, and even if you haven't they're very polite.

The kittens fascinate the dogs, who just stare at them in a state of hypnosis like paparazzi outside a red carpet event. They don't hurt them, they just follow them everywhere and gawp, and the cats barely acknowledge them. The kittens couldn't care less about the dogs, but are fascinated by the chickens who occasionally wander into the house. Foster-Daughter was telling me a scary youtube tale with a chicken clucking behind her in decided what-have-we-here tones. Fair to say the Halloween atmosphere was ruined.

Sunday morning was spent walking in the New Forest. The dogs were delighted and so were we. I've never been there before, and was delighted to see ponies and cows trotting through the landscape of bracken and pink-purple heather. We passed a highly recommended pub surrounded by donkeys. They were nowhere else, just at the pub, presumably waiting for opening time.

Now we are home, and despite being full of cold I can feel the flu symptoms properly subsiding. There will be time enough,I hope, to return to the lands of farm and forest. Right now I have to shake this off and do some work.

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