The countryside is wefted by the winding trails of animals. Old footpaths tell the story of human wanderings and everyone has their favourite walk – a ritual of travelling the same route several times a week. Although the route is the same, it is always a different walk with the changing seasons and chance encounters. My regular walk is through the water meadows which surround the village, through the next village and back along the footpath which runs parallel to the main road.
I set off today under a pewter sky, no sun, through a field of sheep. Seeding thistles dotted grass which had that dark green tinge that comes with cooler days. As I reached the stile at the end, the sun broke through the clouds and lit up the chalk stream – the reflections looking like an abstract painting. Dead nettles and lush stinging nettles edged the narrow path, the innocent pink of Himalayan balsam belied its invasive nature. White bramble flowers glowed among sputnik-like ivy flowers, dusted with stinking lime green pollen.
Blackberries, Snowberries, Hips and Haws decorated the hedgerows. An inky cloud was now covering the northern sky and, as I glanced up, a Little Egret flew beneath it, white as a paper dart. I stopped on the bridge and leaned over to look at the water. A moorhen was dabbling about downstream and a couple of mallards were causing a splash as they took off from the surface. Then, beneath me, a kingfisher swooped out from under the arch of the bridge making me catch my breath. A blue streak lingered in my eyes long after it had gone.
Back along the cycle path, past seeding hogweed and teasels. Spiders’ webs draped the hedge. A scattering of pheasant’s feathers lay on the verge and nearby, at the edge of the road, the sad corpse of a fox cub. I walked home via a friend’s house to collect some huge green cooking apples. Next time the same walk will be different again . . .