I went to the woods the other day.
I love the woods – they have always been a place of magic to me. My grandmother used to take me to the woods near her village to gather snowdrops in Spring, hunt for fairies at Midsummer and take long autumn walks golden with leaves. We visit the woods near our own house quite often, a place to run and hunt for treasure, to find strange stones and pretty leaves as we watch squirrels dance lightfooted, birds rustling overhead. A forest features in my Ambeth stories, home to a gate between worlds, the seasons changing as you pass from one side to another.
The woods we visited are a short drive away. (They are also featured in the header image on this blog). There is a rather good pub on the way where we stopped for lunch, then the road continues through ancient countryside dotted with half timbered cottages, old bridges and small villages, gardens heavy with flowers and fruit trees. When we arrived the place was packed. Or at least, the entrance way was. Cars arriving and leaving, lining the roads, people in wellies and waterproof jackets, kids with sticks, dogs on and off leads, all of them going to the same place we were. However, we were not deterred. We parked, did the obligatory toilet check (as part of a National Trust Estate there is a nice cafe on site), bought ice-creams and then took one of the green-brown paths leading off into the trees. At first there were a few people heading the same way we were, but as we moved deeper into the woods they were gone, leaving us alone amongst the trees and heavenly bluebell scented air.
The bluebells were the real British ones, where the bells hang on one side of the stem only and the scent fills the air with every waft of breeze. Then, to make things even more perfect, we spotted two small deer making their dainty way through the trees. And so we followed, taking the narrow trail dotted with tiny hoof-prints as we went further and deeper into the blue, careful not to tread on the delicate flowers as we walked as quietly as we could, not wanting to frighten the deer away. But they didn’t seem bothered, trotting ahead, stopping to munch on whatever it is they munch on, then, finally, disappearing behind a dense hedge.
It was time to go and, as we made our slow way back through the trees we started to see more and more people, hear voices and dogs barking and motors revving. It felt as though we had been somewhere else, and were just now returning to the real world. A world of cars and families and ice creams, of driving home through country lanes as the first spots of rain began to fall.
It was completely magical, and a beautiful way to end the day.