Another of my safety valves is walking and I thought that today I might take you, my virtual friend, with the dog and me as we follow our default route.
We leave the garden through a wonky gate in a dark patch that used to be part of a track and which leads straight into a field. We are lucky to have such easy access to the countryside and that all (but one) of the neighbouring farmers are happy for us to walk on their land.
The field is currently an organic vineyard and smallholding and these are the solar panels that provide power for pumping water from a well to the automatic watering system in polytunnels beyond the vines. I am happy that this part of the countryside at least is in good hands.
At the top of the field we take a track that goes up the hill, the dog ahead as usual. I love this track because it is shady and because I hardly ever meet anyone else on it.
I stop at a gateway to catch my breath and look at the view. I remember how my London sister when she last came to stay enthused about the 'space'. I realise that the space here is both mental and physical. I couldn’t do without it.
The track gets steeper but it is still shady – and the dog is still ahead, stopping every so often to check I’m following her. ‘What’s keeping you?’ her face says as I pant along behind. I’m glad that the climb is at the beginning of the walk instead of the end. It works up a sweat and gets the blood moving and, however tired I am when I start the climb, I always feel better at the end of it.
And when I see the view from the top I know that I have deserved it. I want to throw up my arms and sing like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.
We descend, crossing a stream churned up by cows, calves and a bull who were in this area a few days ago. I can’t see them today but keep a wary eye open, ready to vault a barbed-wire fence if necessary.
The stream plunges into a steep valley, obliterated by dense woodland. It’s too overgrown to enter at the moment but I do venture in on special occasions during the rest of the year. It’s a non-human magical place and sometimes it makes me frightened. I always try to contact its spirits beforehand to ask permission to enter.
We rest in the shade of an oak tree. I always find myself doing this. Oak trees are benevolent whereas beeches are self-absorbed and ashes skittish. The dog copies me, as usual, and sits down too. She is still alert however. We both listen to the screeches of a buzzard hunting around us. Like geese and swallows, it reminds me of that wild world most of us humans left many thousands of years ago but to which we will I hope one day return. I try (and fail) to get a photograph of the buzzard.
I enjoy the rich colours – the dark green of the trees (‘tired’ I described the colour yesterday when the sun wasn’t out and I was recovering from a migraine), the red haws tumbling from the hedges, the terracotta earth of the recently harvested field on the skyline.
I write some daily pages and find several ideas rising to the surface. I wonder if DPs and blogging are play, practice for the real thing, and whether that real thing is novel-writing. Or perhaps novel-writing can be play too.
The dog gets bored. She stands up and starts barking at voices on the track, and then barking at the echo of her own bark. Time to move on.
Back in the vineyard field, we pass the 'art installation' (abandoned farm machinery and chicory) where the dog chased a rat a few weeks ago. (She didn't catch it.)
In the distance are the polytunnels where J grows organic edible leaves and flowers for expensive restaurants.
Here, at the bottom of the field, are some of the grapes, ripening well. I think they are Chardonnay.
And here is the gate back to the garden. For once the dog has vanished (lots of small mammals to chase in organic fields) but usually she is at the gate before me, keen for food - as am I always at the end of our walks.
I hope you enjoyed this one as much as I did.