The first of February was the last day of the season for shooting pheasants in the United Kingdom and presumably the last day for taking pot-shots at innocent little ladies walking in the woods which is what my friend and I were doing that day.
Hoods up against the sharp wind, we leaned on our stout sticks and felt our way through the frozen puddles along the bridal track from Bwlch y Ffridd to Gregynog Hall — so muffled were we that we could have passed for the ghosts of Margaret and Gwendoline Davies, the great patrons of modern art, who will have passed this way a century ago.
“That’s where von Ribbentrop used to stay in the thirties,” said my friend pointing out a building on the far side of the wide valley. I pricked up my ears but before I could question her further we became aware of several large four-wheel-drive vehicles crunching through the snow in the valley below and stopping one after the other to disgorge men with guns who seemed to be scrambling to take up positions along the valley, parallel with our route along the track. “Are they hunting today? Is it a shoot?”
“Shootings over for this year… I think” said my friend.
Young men with dogs and sticks appeared above us in the wood lashing at the tree trunks and clapping.
“I think we had better turn back and quickly.”
“They are bloody shooting!” In a state of extreme arousal we slid and stumbled our way past the gunmen, along a fusillade that rained lead shot down through the trees like unearthly hail. They weren’t firing at us and probably were 30 feet away but it really was quite exciting!
I bet von Ribbentrop came here for the shooting or perhaps to meet Mrs Simpson (lovers evidently) as they both wooed the future king — it’s a small world.