It’s a while since I walked in the wood. There was a time from 1982 until two years ago that I knew almost every tree, every shrub and every path in that wood. I walked it daily – many days twice, taking different routes.
There was the straightforward path, a roughly circular thing but that was always too short and too easy unless showing visitors the woodland for the first time.
There was the diversion to see the badger setts, there was the diversion to see the snowdrops in spring, there was the diversion to look at the badger hairs caught on the bottom strand of barbed wire fence where they left the wood to trot down to their latrine and on to the river. The arrival of snow always confirmed their continued presence, as it did the presence of many deer.
A non-track through the bottom section of the wood led to the secret grove where I once found pale yellow-gold chanterelles.
Another track, twisty-turning this way and that and trod by unknown creatures – perhaps badgers, maybe rabbits, is blocked in places by fallen trees but winds steeply through the thickest most undisturbed woodland. This is the place I heard the flutey, sonorous song of a nightingale.
I suppose going out for a trot for the first time in ages and taking the twisty turny path downhill wasn’t the most sensible of moves.
There was too much to look at, for a start. A lot had changed. There had been new badger earthworks and the old ones looked abandoned, the cavernous tunnels filled with leaves.
The snowdrops were all in bloom; more than I’ve ever seen before – and the bright, fresh shoots of bluebells were just starting to show through the leaf litter.
The thought that spring was on it’s way, as the wind howled and shifted the treetops, causing loose branches and bunches of old ash keys to come cracking down unexpectedly, was a good one.
It probably contributed to the spring in my step, trotting downhill in a bit of a haphazard, slightly “oops-a-daisy” “oo-er” and “oh bugger” slidey way on the path, barely a foot-width wide, which winds between holly bushes, huge ivy-clad fallen trees, oaks and a few pines.
So it was a surprise to see the shiny black nose of a black labrador come around the tree trunk at me and more of a surprise to find his owner, a short blonde woman in unsuitable footwear struggling with the mud-slippery track and grasping desperately for tree branches to haul herself up.
I only just managed to avoid falling over her – not that she noticed me bearing down on her with my Goretex walking boots. Too busy concentrating on her own feet.
Oh and I managed to turn over on my ankle at the bottom of the wood on a perfectly easy flat section, fortunately managing not to sprain it, which makes a change.
This cross-country trotting lark needs a bit more practice. Very nice snowdrops though and I didn’t flatten a single one. So that’s some kind of result.