67. The Extra Mile

I used to be on the lookout for fairies, but now it’s walkers, and not the kind with sturdy boots, cagoules and granola bars. I’d startle if I met anyone on a trek, but the stumbling undead?

A childhood in Germany, with forests of wild pigs and assault courses, to the cool woods of England. Giant tree-mushrooms, a forager’s delight, ever-declining red squirrels, cob nuts and that particular tea time, dappled, sepia sunlight. Children laughing as they hide in makeshift dens under rhododendron bushes. Finding the perfect bluebell knoll, in a tiny clearing. Nature trail signs and searching for new installation sculptures made from fallen trees and industrial metal. Overgrown Victorian train tracks (non-standardised gauge) and bridges with ornate brickwork over tiny beck streams. The obligatory ‘witches’ cottage, which was where they used to make charcoal, but local spookier stories seemed more believable.

Kicking puff-balls into a mist, tipping over fallen logs, scattering earwigs, woodlice and beetles, hugging the big tree, helicopter sycamore seeds, pockets full of conkers, treading crisp leaves into last-years mushy decay, with nothing but the sun and occasional road noise as our guides. Spongy, slippy moss and the snap of twigs slowly becomes well-trodden, drier, familiar tarmac.

Muddy boots off in the car, a swig of shared water then home. Whose turn is it to wash the smelly dog?

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