Much against my better nature, earlier this year I got hooked into the first series of Game of Thrones – a sort of Tolkien-meets medieval-Europe fantasy adventure starring Sean Bean.
No one plays Sean Bean better than Sean Bean and, as Ned Stark, he nails it once again. The Starks, of whom Bean is the gruff patriarch, live in a cold fortress in the icy North and their grim family motto, oft repeated, is “Winter is coming”.
I’m reminded of this regularly by locals’ warnings, even though it is still early autumn, sunny and benign. We live remotely at the top of a steep track and the central heating runs on expensive LPG. During the last delivery, the lorry burnt out its clutch on the hill. We’re not sure they’ll come again.
“Have you got your wood in yet?” a neighbour, Dai, asked. I showed him the massive pile in the woodshed (one of two woodsheds that we're filling – see top) ready to feed our two woodburning stoves and help keep heating costs down. He scoffed “I’ve 10 times that amount”. Winter is coming…
We bought a 4x4 – again, something shunned in my previous urban life. It’s a big, thirsty Subaru but it shoots up the hill like a greased weasel. “You’ll need one each,” said another neighbour (Paul, who lives half a mile away). “First it’s the leaves, then the ice, then, if you’re really unlucky, the snow. Your Peugeot [referring to Fifi, my little French runaround who takes me to the station every morning] won’t get up.” Winter is coming…
“You’ll need a chainsaw,” said our nearest neighbour – let’s call him John – who is moving into Abergavenny before winter sets in. I know this, but frankly, I’m a bit nervous about chopping off a leg and ending up in a Pete and Dud sketch. “No, you’ll really need one,” John insisted. “To cut yourself out when a tree falls and blocks the lane.” Winter is coming…
“I’ve only been snowed in once in 14 years,” said the lady who sold us the house. “But it was for two weeks. So make sure you have plenty of supplies.” Winter is coming…
So I’ve begun enjoyable the task of harvesting wood, the unenjoyable task of looking into buying another expensive vehicle and worrying about a chainsaw. Because winter is going to be awful.
But at the moment it is hard to believe – the land is beautiful, soft and fruitful and I’m going to live for today, for now.
But if these blogs dry up around December or January, you’ll know winter has come…
Next: Argy-bargy at the Abergavenny Food Festival


Fergus CollinsEditor, BBC Countryfile Magazine