Writer, zoologist and gundog enthusiast, Pippa blogs on life in the countryside

Pippa’s Blog is moving

I  have decided to move this blog onto my own website pippamattinson.com.

I am not going to ‘migrate’ it in one go, I have read too many stories about how this can go wrong.

So I have decided to move the articles over a few at a time.

When the transition is complete, I will shut this one  down.

Thank you

This will probably be the last new post I put up on this site,   and I would just like to say a BIG thank you to all those that have subscribed and commented.

It is now just over a year since I discovered WordPress and started blogging.  This  site was my first attempt and I could not possibly have guessed just how much I would enjoy it.

Your support and encouragement has been a huge part of that.

I hope you will visit our ‘new home’  and look forward to seeing you there

Best wishes



Meet Rachael

Rachael and Pippa

I know.

I said my next puppy was going to be fox-red.

So what on earth am I doing with this chocolate dumpling!

You’ll have to check this out:  My chocolate adventure  to find out!

The standard reaction

I passed a member of our shoot on my way down to the meadow the other day and signalled to him that I had something of interest in the car.

“Oooooh!”  says he with interest

“is it a new puppy??”  says he with enthusiasm as he climbs out of his landrover

“is it a Labrador?” he asks excitedly as he crosses the road and peers in through the window of my truck

“Oh”.   he says,  as his voice trails away with disappointment.   “What a pity”  he sighs.

“Its chocolate…”

And he was only half joking

If you have no idea why the average British shooting man and woman views the chocolate labrador with some derision,  check out my link above.   Chocolates have not yet achieved much success in the  trialling world in the UK.   And have a lot to prove.

You can follow me through my trials and tribulations in: Rachael’s Journey.

I should be in for some fun!

My first video

I have been quite busy this month with my first attempt at video.  Here are the results

Produced by my son Tom.

Posturing and puppies

Labrador puppyA visitor to my blog recently drew my attention to a posturing rant in the Guardian newspaper  by George Monbiot.

The article was intended to express outrage at a proposal by Defra to permit the capturing of buzzards on shooting estates.

But was essentially a vitriolic and ill-informed attack on driven pheasant shooting with accompanying ‘witness account’ of what ‘actually goes on’.

And the witness was?  Monbiot himself.

What particularly caught my eye in the piece was Monbiot’s extraordinary claim to have been employed on a shoot as a loader in his teens.

If you want to know why I found this so odd,  drop into the Guns OnPegs website where you can read my article: Monbiot the Loader – an unlikely story


On a brighter note, it has been over four years since we heard the pitter-patter of four tiny paws in our home, and I am about to remedy that situation!

I raise and train a gundog puppy every few years, to join my picking-up ‘gang’, and accompany us on our ‘expIoits’.  This time we have decided on another Labrador.

I have reluctantly decided not to breed from my own four year old lab bitch.   Mainly because her conformation is rather poor.   This will be the first puppy I have not bred myself for some years.

After some considerable searching, and several disappointments,  I have managed to track down a soon-to-arrive litter of fox-red trial bred Labradors.    The pups are due in about ten days time,  so please keep your fingers crossed for me that there is a bitch amongst them!

Thought for the day!

There have recently been some comments on this blog by someone opposed to pheasant shooting and it is perhaps surprising that this has not happened sooner.   So this morning I will add a link to my post on the ethics of game shooting to my about page.

I have also given some thought to how I would deal with future comments of this nature.  I do believe in respecting everyone’s views and listening to others,  and I think it is important to take every opportunity to promote and defend our sport and our lifestyle.

But on the other hand I do not have unlimited time to spend debating a topic on which it is often hard to find common ground.

So I have decided to put some other thoughts on this issue,  in response to these recent comments,  and simply add to these if any relevant points need covering.    I have also decided to moderate ‘all’ comments (this blog is currently set to moderate only the first comment made by a new visitor).

So in the future you will find that your comments do  not appear until I have approved them.  This may take a few hours as I am not always online!

Against pheasant shooting

Some people are opposed to pheasant shooting.    Some arguments against pheasant shooting are based on misconceptions about how shooting is run and who takes part.  Many shoots, including my own, have guns that are not remotely ‘wealthy’  and work hard all week to make sure that they have enough money for their sport,   which may cost them less than a season ticket to Chelsea.

Most arguments ignore the contributions that shoots make to our wildlife and economy.  Many ignore welfare issues entirely.   (A pheasant does not suffer more because the man who shoots him is wealthy for example  -  this is a completely irrelevant argument)

Arguments I respect

Some arguments against pheasant shooting are based on a genuine desire to live on this planet without harming or eating other animals.

I have every respect and sympathy for that view,  though it is not one I share.  And I suspect it may not actually be is achievable.  Even with a truly vegan lifestyle.

Every aspect of human life requires that animals step aside at some point.   Especially when it comes to protecting our food chain.   I have been involved in the pest control industry for over thirty years and can assure all readers,  that if you ever eat in a restaurant,  vegan or not,  rats (and mice and cockroaches and all manner of other beasties) have probably died for your pleasure.

Drugs must be tested on animals so that our children and pets can be safe from the diseases that once ravaged society.

Crops are sprayed so that we can eat wheat, beans, carrots and all manner of other plants without paying a small mortgage for them.   And yes,  the average resident of my village can probably afford organic food,  but could we feed the planet on that basis?  I doubt it.

And bear in mind that even organic farmers employ pest control contractors to kill rodents, rabbit and birds that eat their crops or contaminate their stores  and use heat treatments to kill insects.

Still,  I do sympathise with all those that wish to live without harming other species,  and wish them well.   Most of the vegans I have met live according to their principles without trying to force their views on others.   Respect.

Those who oppose the many aspects of my own lifestyle that they find offensive,  are I find, often confused about their own principles.   They will often admit to hypocrisy when it comes to what they will kill and what they will not.  But do not see that this diminshes their own arguments.  They are also often happy to eat farmed meat which has been subjected to all sorts of unpleasant procedures.  This is what I have to say to them.

To those who oppose my lifestyle

I am happy to be a meat eater.  And happy that my pheasants  (and all the wild animals that we shoot and eat)  have had a better life (and death) than most of the lumps of meat you will find on a supermarket shelf.   I am deeply interested in animal welfare and always pleased to hear of new research or evidence on this subject.

Please read the ethics of game shooting for an explanation of my views,  and please do not be too disappointed if I do not get involved in too much debate with you.

I support your right to have your own views and ask that you support mine.  New information and research is welcome.  Repeated comments that cover the same ground will not be approved and those that come just to argue may be blocked.

This blog is for those that are interested in our shoot and in the activities that go  on there.  If that offends you,  you may be happier reading a different blog

New kid on the block: baby roe

Roe KidI was fortunate this morning to have the opportunity to photograph this little beauty.

There are a fair number of roe kids born on the farm every year.

Many roe does have twins,  and there is a thriving roe population throughout this area.

Despite the number of deer it is quite unusual to find a kid.

This little ball of fluff was probably a few days old,  and curled up was not much more than twelve inches across.

Survival strategy

You are probably aware that roe does leave their kids alone like this for quite long periods of time,  until they are mobile enough to keep up with Mum and outrun predators.  The mother deer visits the kids to feed them and will race away to distract any predators that approach.

As soon as Mum leaves, the kid will instinctively lie down  and keep very still.   That is its survival strategy.  And they are very difficult to spot.

Initially the only thing that gave the game away was the tiniest twitch of the tips of this little one’s ears.

The roe kid’s mother will usually hang around not too far away.   She doesn’t forget where she left her baby and she will always return.

When the strategy fails

This survival strategy unfortunately fails when uncontrolled dogs are allowed to charge around the countryside and/or when misinformed members of the public come across these adorable little creatures and assume that they have been abandoned.

Roe kids are killed by dogs every year.  And others are picked up by walkers.

Do not disturb

If you come across a wonderful sight like this,  it is important not to touch the kid or disturb the area that it is hidden in.   We took a couple of photos and slipped quietly away.

We will be keeping a lookout for this little one and hope to get some film of it with Mum when it has grown a little.

What a lovely start to the day

Bored of bream

Black breamHimself arrived home last evening is a state of great excitement.

Apparently catching two bucketfuls of bream is a positively orgasmic experience!

I enjoy eating fish as much as I enjoy catching it.   But I do confess to having my favourites.   And must also confess that Bream is not amongst them.

Where are my mackerel?

My favourite table fish is salmon,  followed very closely indeed by mackerel.    And I couldn’t help but notice that there was only one mackerel in the bucket.

Himself regards me as some kind of Philistine.

My preference for mackerel is inexplicable to him.

A working lunch

Apparently he would have me know that he spent his entire lunch hour aboard the Queen of the Oceans,  producing the contents of the bowls above.

Though I suspect the ‘hour’  part was applied somewhat loosely.

Apparently I should be more grateful and appreciative of his efforts in providing us with enough bream to keep us going for months.

Before you ask,  for the fishermen amongst you,  the big fish in the nearer bowl weighed three pounds.  I put the matchbox there for scale.

Bored now

Himself started catching bream early last week,  and bream has featured rather strongly on the menu for the last few days.

I realise that this is some kind of heresy,  but I am now really quite bored of it.

I know it’s just me,  because we took some to the pub last night and they were snapped up with great enthusiasm.

But I just can’t help it.   Its mackerel for me any day of the week.

Goodbye April, hello May


Got to love those cocker ears!

Last month, our family was very pre-occupied with a big celebration.   It was an unforgettable experience watching my husband walk our  radiant younger daughter up the aisle of our village church.

Not least because of the shock of seeing him in a suit.

In fact it was quite extraordinary for me to see my entire family and many friends, transformed by suits, ties, hats and beautiful, colourful, dresses.

And to spend a whole day with so many loved ones.  An experience that not even the wettest month of the year could mar.

Of course my priorities have for the last few weeks been elsewhere than with dog training and the shoot.  But now April is done, and as we slip back into our ‘green’ clothes,  I am looking forward to this new month with renewed focus on our outdoor pursuits.

Meg as you can see (right) is relieved to have me back again!

The wettest drought in history

We are supposedly in the middle of a drought so serious that a hosepipe ban has been introduced throughout the South East of the UK.  However, no-one has thought to inform the sky above Hampshire and Surrey of this fact.  It has rained almost continuously now for around three weeks.

The farm is extremely waterlogged at the moment and the usually stunning annual display of bluebells has been somewhat flattened and diminished by the constant rain and high winds.  Even in the landrover,  straying from the main tracks is fraught with excitement.  And not in a good way!

The Queen of the Oceans  has been confined to her berth for all but a couple of days for the last few weeks.  Overcome with cabin fever due to the atrocious weather for the last few days,  himself went down to ‘look her over’  and pump out her bilges  on Sunday afternoon.   Several gallons of rainwater had been forced under her covers by the previous night’s gales.

Catching up with writing

Fortunately there is nothing too pressing that needs doing during April, and we were able to put the shoot on the ‘back burner’  whilst preparing for our big day,  and riding out the April storms.

And in the last few days I have been able to catch up with some of my articles for The Labrador Site  where I have been focusing on stopping dogs from pulling on the lead,  and Totally Gundogs  where I have been delving further into retrieving, and retrieving problems.

I have also set up a facebook page for my gundog site which, if you are into that kind of thing,  you can find here:  Totally Gundogs on Facebook

Ready for May

May will be a month of pen  mending, dog training, stalking and filming roe deer,  and stocking the freezer with rabbits, venison, and sea fish.    Himself and I also have some plans for a new website dedicated to deer.   But more of that later.

Here’s hoping that some of the many vats of water that fell on my house last night,  will end up in our desperately low reservoirs.   I certainly do not need any more in my garden.


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