Walking in the woods is a regular activity for us but not something that I ever seem to do on my own. It's usually Toby and me that wood-walk and Toby is always very much in charge. There's never really time to stop and look at things when you walk with Toby. He receives the words 'wait a minute' with the same reaction you'd expect from saying 'never in a million years' and with much anxiety and handbiting so stopping for a moment to take pictures, look at a flower or just soak up the quiet woodsy atmosphere is not usually something I get to do. But yesterday I made the most of a few hours on my own.
After I dropped Toby off, I took to the woods in the quiet mid morning when the early morning dog-walkers had already passed through and no-one else was around. I did hear voices once through the trees but didn't actually see anyone. Being alone in the woods can be slightly disconcerting but these are familiar and friendly woods and I felt peaceful and calm.
We are so lucky here to be on the edge of some ancient woodlands that have protected status and while they are small when looked at on a map, the area is one of the largest oak/hornbeam woodlands in the country and you can easily walk for a day without going down the same path twice. Some of the names are fascinating and hint at lost histories:
Mortals wood, Emanuel Pollards, Thunderfield grove, Claypits wood, Bushy Pightle
Some of these give a clue as to what used to be there but I had to look up pightle, which was once a common word in the naming of fields and denotes a small enclosed piece of land for keeping animals, often attached to a cottage.
I followed the path around Toby's favourite patch of woodland - Bencroft. It's a well trod path passing beneath a canopy of various aged trees and with drifts of bracken in the more open areas.
Half way round there is a gate leading onto fields and I sat for a while there in the sun enjoying the view across the valley to the grounds of Beaumont Manor.
Then it was back through a denser part of the wood, peppered with leafy glades and smaller twisting pathways.
It was a lovely peaceful 3 hour walk and nice to go at my own pace and stop frequently to take pictures. Especially since the signs of autumn are appearing everywhere, with the trees laden with budding acorns and the brambles studded with fat, juicy blackberries.
It's made me determined to get out a bit more in the week when Toby is back at school and explore a bit further afield. Mind you it was nice to come back and put my slightly-aching feet up with a good book afterwards and I had a quiet hour of reading before it was time to pick Toby up again. Usually reading is an exclusively bed-time activity for me and the way that I like to wind down at the end of each day so I did get a bit sleepy and I might have dozed off for a bit too.
So, we are almost at the end of the school Summer break and I'm now out of Toby-free days. I didn't manage to tick everything off my wish list - I missed out on a picnic (unless you count chomping on an apple in the woods) and visiting somewhere new, but 3 out of 5 isn't too bad and I really enjoyed what I did fit in.
See you soon - once we've settled back into term-time routines again (Toby goes back to school next Wednesday) and thanks as always for dropping by to visit.
PS: thanks to all of you who asked how H is - he's perfectly fine now thankfully!