Duck and Grouse


Columbine Hall has a very large chimney, built, we think, in Tudor times. Our builder once reckoned that it might be made up of no fewer than 10,000 small, hand-made bricks (this does seem unlikely.) It services four fires. In the dining room and what we call the moat room there are two enormous brick fireplaces, suitable only for logs and even tree trunks while, upstairs are two smaller fires, in a spare bedroom and our library. We think both fires and chimney were built when Sir John Poley, an Elizabethan soldier of fortune (ie mercenary) was the owner.

Big chimneys have big openings, as we have learnt to our dismay. Once we came back to the house to find that two ducks had fallen down the chimney into the dining room. You would be surprised at what mess a pair of panicked mallards can make. Not only bird shit everywhere but they had smashed a rather nice Mocha jug and knocked pewter dishes to the floor.

On another occasion we had a pair of young kestrels down the moat room chimney. Less damage (though enough) and, despite their ferocious appearance, they left by a large window without too much trouble. Even less trouble are the various pigeons and robins which have found their way indoors.

The duck/kestrel problem may now be over. Richard Everitt, our builder, needed scaffolding and ladders to reach the top of the chimney (an earlier cherry picker was too unstable) where he fixed a fine metal grille over the openings. The view, he added, was marvellous from the top. We declined to clamber up ourselves.