With the sun beginning to set and the warmth of early spring in the air I stepped into the woodlands with three of my pack. The annoyances of everyday life have been hanging on to me with a tenacious persistence recently and the clear air and space to think was a welcome tonic from their tiresome presence. As is always the case my pack raced up and down the first woodland path delighted to be out and about. The last of the sunlight showed me the first shoots and hints of green within the browns of the old bracken to add a visual delight to the tactile warmth within the air and the calls of the birds. I enjoy winter but the hovel is a place where the previous owners were ill prepared for her coldness in changing times. A chance to bask in the warmth of a strengthening sun and make improvements to our scruffy home well ahead of the next cold season is something I am very grateful for.
A head of me on the path I could see another walker approaching, I turned to a smaller path and away from the figure to ensure my solitude was uninterrupted. The beauty of the forestry commission owned woods is the right to wander and to stray from the recognised footpaths, the smaller tracks are often more rewarding with their sights of nature and moments of peace. It was only a short stretch before I spotted new bushcraft shelters among the trees. I stopped and made my way through to look at them. I would assume they were built by some of the local kids, branches were arranged around the tree base ready for fallen leaves to be piled up against the structure. The space within the shelter would have been very tight. I certainly could not get in there and the base of the tree held the central space preventing all but a contortionist from lying down, even the most enthusiastic tree hugger could find it cosy. The branches were also very steep against the tree trunks, this would have left the builders a considerable amount of gathering to collect the leaves & branches required to cover them. I found myself smiling as I looked over the shelters, I wonder if their builders had learned from them. It certainly appeared that they had fun and in my opinion that is often the best way to learn.
I left the shelters behind and stepped out onto the trail again. The next hour or so treated me to peace and moments of reconnection with nature and spirit. Pheasants took flight as my dogs flushed them from their hiding places, clattering and clamouring their way into the air voicing their disapproval. The slow beats of the heron's wings carried the creature high above the tops of the conifers with the last rays of daylight warming the gray underbelly of the bird. Within the last half mile of the walk we encountered a deer. Hiding in the undergrowth on the opposing side of a ditch, the deer held her ground until my collie was standing almost opposite her. In a burst of power and speed she leapt to her feet and smashed through the small branches as she made her way towards the perimeter of the wood and the open fields. My collie made no attempt to chase her, he stood and watched her vanish before turning to me with an expression I could only read as "did you see that!".
I take it as a sign of an enjoyable wander when I reach the car or the front door with the ringing thought that I don't actually want to go back. But needs must. Someday I will put the key back in my pocket turn around and just keep going until I feel truly fulfilled.