I went for a hike today. This is a route that will be new to you, but not to me. I discovered it a couple of years ago and have walked it regularly since then, but have never blogged about it.
So. Hike. Train to Chorleywood. en.wikipedia.org
Get off train, walk up steps, walk up hill, on to Chorleywood Common. This is a much bedogged common, but it also has many trees (which dogs like for reasons I am too delicate to mention) and ponds, and in season flowers. It is not the flower season in Chorleywood. Today it was 6C or 43F, enough to make you think twice before sitting down anywhere at all, even if it was dry.
Cross the common, cross the road, head off down the road through the grounds of what used to be Chorleywood Hall. Turn down favourite green lane. Along lane (which is stunningly beautiful in spring, with flowers and all the fittings but rather stark now) through gap in trees and into field.
The views, darlings, are beyond my ability to describe. It's a green and blue and brown winter's day. Although it's midday, the shadows are long and the sun is low. Above me a red kite www.rspb.org.uk/
swoops and lands in a tree.
Walk downhill across the field, turn left. This walk is actually variable as there are myriad paths to choose and I doubt I've ever repeated the same route twice. Note with pleasure that the going is less muddy than I'd feared. Keep walking, observe catkins on a tree, emerge at road, turn down it, turn into public footpath across a field (happily empty of cows, horses or anything else I might be worried by.
There was an incident with some goats recently.) At end of field, emerge on to ominously muddy path. Go into denial about mud. Take photos of prehistoric field system opposite. Yes, it really really is. There's a noticeboard up and everything. You can see the lines of terraces.
Come to forest. Walk the half mile through this, observing that it is lighter in here than in the summer cos there are no leaves on the trees.
Get to end of forest and I'm on Holloway Lane. Holloway Lane is what it says: a holloway, an ancient track. If I turn left, I will be on one of my favourite stretches of hike anywhere BUT it ends in a muddy and steep downwards slope which I don't fancy today. So I turn right and walk down to the river Chess and across the little footbridge then left and along the path by a nature reserve.
Through a little wood and out . . . on to a horribly boggy path.
Slither along this for a quarter mile, observed with interest by four horses in the adjoining field. Arrive at last at the Usual Spot for Lunch, a tumbledown bench. Eat lunch (smoked mackerel sandwich and a LOT of hot coffee), take a deep breath and stagger to my feet again. In just the ten minutes I've been sitting, I've got very very cold and stiff. Walk along road for 50 metres, turn right on to path alongside the river Chess. In summer there are watercress beds along here. At the moment, there's just water.
On a narrow bit of path that has been churned up by horses, I see a brown animal about the size of a sheep emerge from the hedge, take one look at me and dash back. I'm a bit bemused by this. Mostly, I have some idea what things are when I see them in the countryside: fox, deer, mouse, weasel or stoat etc.
I get on Twitter. 'I've jut seen a large brown mammal and NO IDEA what it was. Creepy.' Then, ten minutes later: 'It looked a bit like a wild pig. Is that possible?
Apparently there ARE wild boar in the UK and it might just have been. There are also wild wallabies (not indigenous) and there's the Essex lion that featured in one of my first Sparkblogs, of course.
So it might have been.
Anyway, there's no further sign of it. Keep walking, the path opens out, there are two more red kites above me, get to the last stretch by the river again, and the bridge.
Haul myself up the final killer hill. It's not that big a hill, just that I've had enough and I'm cold and hungry again.
About 8 miles today in 3 hours because the mud slows things down. Not bad for the first hike of the year.