Much as I enjoy rambling in the garden, a daily ramble outwith the garden has become a necessity since official lockdown and self-isolation began 11 days ago. Outwith is what I assumed was an old fashioned word meaning ‘outside’ or ‘beyond’, but on checking today it is in fact purely a Scottish word and one still used in modern parlance – being of Scottish descent, we perhaps choose to use it when we are being deliberately pedantic! Anyway, I thought I would share one of these walks with you to give you an idea of the environs wherein (!) we live. This was a typical walk and perhaps our most regular one, taken last Tuesday, but it could easily have been last yadseuT as it is just as often done in reverse.
Turning right from outside our front door we pass a large detached house, before walking down the path at the side of it with a wall on the left (above). Behind this wall is the ‘playground’ of the old school which the owners let us use for car parking on our open days. This leads into the churchyard with its tiny church of Norman origins and, being in a commanding position at the top of a hill, with a wonderful and widespread view along the valley.
The Golfer prefers the walk in this direction, as the hill is at its steepest and therefore a downward stretch:
We turn left at the bottom, walking between lakes on either side, the result of shallow coal mines collapsing after being abandoned perhaps as late as the end of the 1960s, leaving a series of lakes along this stretch of the river, a haven for wildlife and fishermen – and a tendency for the roads to flood. There used to a footpath across where these two lakes are, used by children from a nearby village to reach the school in ours. Overhanging trees have been cut back very recently here, wisely, as they were increasingly unsafe and prone to dropping branches, opening up the views on either side.
A little further on you can see the final part of our route at the top of the hill, along the hedge line; already it has been interesting to watch the changes taking places in these fields which seem to be used for both barley and grazing in turn. Currently, one field has been ploughed whereas the adjacent one is being used a maternity unit for sheep awaiting the birth of their spring lambikins.
Turning left up the lane just to the right of this picture, the gradient is relatively gentle and, together with the gradual rise along the last stretch, equates to the steepness of the original downhill stretch but less noticeably so.
On reaching the kissing gate (there are five on this route, well-used), we turn left into the field and enjoy the view down into the valley. As well as the river, this valley hosts a canal and the main London to Scotland railway, so a good place for train spotters!
Two or three weeks without rain and a lot of sunshine means this stretch has been dry and firm in recent weeks; at other times parts of it can be surprisingly boggy considering the location at the top of a hill. On this occasion we arrived home with dry boots , squeezing through the narrow alleyway (always interesting to see what’s growing here, both wild and garden escapees) between the hedge and the school house’s garden, a walk of about two and a half miles in total and just under 6000 steps for me, but less for the less-short legged Golfer, and in time for a mid-morning cup of tea.