Turf Blog 02-06-24

Don’t go into the long grass. Do you recall the scene in Jurassic Park: Lost World, the one where the heroes and heroines are crossing the field of long grass and the velociraptors are stalking them. Well, that’s what happened to me early this morning, around 3.00 am, silly- o’clock, while turfing the zones around Dalhousie Castle. I’d just taken zone DalhousiePath and could hear rustling in the long grass, quite close by.

Standing still, I soon spotted the grass moving. Something was forcing its way through the long grass, directly towards me. I shone the torch on the spot and the something stopped, snorted a few times then continued towards me. My heart was pounding, what was it? Was I in danger? Should I make a run for it? Can I run fast enough? Should I stand my ground and fight? Then I saw a cute wee face peering up at me. What a relief, it was only a veloci-hog and a juvenile at that. Phew!

I’ve often been asked if I’m scared while turfing alone at night in the countryside and I can honestly say I’ve never been scared. Mind you, I have been spooked or startled on numerous occasions. But firstly, I must say I feel safer alone at night in the countryside than turfing alone in Bonnyrigg after closing time on a Saturday night when the local football team Bonnyrigg Rose have lost 8 – 0 in the league final. By the way, did you know Sean Connery, aka James Bond, once played football for Bonnyrigg Rose.

The biggest culprit for spooking a turfer at night are birds roosting. You are happily walking alone through the trees, usually conifers, when suddenly, directly above you, a hundred woodpigeon take flight, flapping wings like crazy, showering you in a cloud of pine needles, insects and quite possibly, pigeon poo! Magpies and jackdaws sometimes do the same. You get used to it but not totally.

Another bird that can scare the crap out of you is the barn owl. One has a territory at zone KirkCockpen, possibly nesting or roosting up in the bell tower of the church, and it’s in the habit of screeching whenever turfers appear there at night. I’m sure it deliberately waits until you are under it before screeching like a banshee. The barn owl is also known as the screech owl, ghost owl, demon owl and hobgoblin owl, among others. Enough said.

A sudden encounter with barking deer can be an interesting experience when turfing at night. At zone Mary in Newbattle Woods, I must have been approaching the deer from upwind and it must not have realised I was there. I didn’t realise the deer was so close until it barked, from about 5 meters away then thundered off through the trees. To say I got a bloody fright would be a lie, I almost crapped myself. Foxes are another animal you can encounter in the countryside at night, and also in urban areas. They have a range of calls but the most unearthly one is the scream, though they also bark like dogs. I’ve heard this many times but never one close enough to get the heart thumping.

But the thing that can get you spooked, scared or even terrified into full panic mode is something we all have access to, the imagination, and if you have a very fertile imagination, things can run away with themselves. It is so easy to see a dark shape ahead of you, or a movement in your peripheral vision, and it becomes a person or animal standing still waiting for you, when it’s really only a tree stump.

Then there’s the tricks of light and shadow, when the wind moves a branch, a shadow moves and become something, you know not what. Add to that a distant flashing light, which appears to be bobbing up and down, but it’s actually you walking that makes it appear to be bobbing up and down. Then the pièce de résistance, some voices in the same direction, or the note of an engine getting louder. All the ingredients you need to fuel the imagination into thinking someone is after you.

Happy turfing, at night, in the woods, alone.

Copyright ©2024 Gary Buckham. All rights reserved.

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