Tag Archives: walk

1.1.17: Ditches

 

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As I walked out on the last day of the year, I noticed the hazel bushes. Some were already shaking their tails, but others were still not quite ready to open up, biding their time.

This was plucked from a bush beside a ditch – a running ditch after all the recent rain. The vase came from a ditch as well, one running beside a windmill next to a canal in Belgium where we had a cycling holiday on February. It reminds me of Victorian school ink bottles, but since the top is broken, all we know is that the miller cast it in the ditch, to be treasured many years later by a family of foreigners. It suits a single stem very well.

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31 December: Lichen

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At the top of Saint Thomas’s Hill, behind the University, the old road dips down and climbs again to Blean Church, far enough from the main road to grow this bed of lichen on a tombstone. On a grey day it glows.

Lift up your eyes to the hills …

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There are hills and hills of course. Saint Thomas’s Hill is on the rim of the dish that cradles the city. Most cyclists seem to dismount to climb up it, but coming down is another matter; I think that qualifies as a hill. For the last fifty years it has housed the University of Kent, not visible in this winter’s picture.

Indeed I’ve deliberately shown this ‘temporary’ car park in all its glory to stress the point brought home to me as I turned this corner the other day – without my phone of course, so I could not recapture that careless rapture. Here the panel of parking regulations, the hastily spread asphalt  and the scrubby edges of the car park impel the walker to pass by on the other side as quickly as possible.

 

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I walk this way nearly every day,  eyes averted.

Between where we stand and those whitewashed cottages a footpath takes a short tunnel under the railway; then to the left of the cottages and to the playing field behind the tall trees; a not unpleasant walk. From there the hilltop is covered in university buildings; from here neither they nor the post-war houses across the field make much impact.

There’s no way you could imagine yourself in the Kentish countryside, but look up! There is a hill, there are trees, there is hope. Even if the developers would happily sacrifice the trees on the altar of Mammon. This car park has never been built upon. It used to be an allotment garden, gone wild before we came, but good for raspberries, brambles, lizards and slow-worms. A sustained effort was made to rescue the reptiles, now safely rehoused on reclaimed land elsewhere. But this land will be built on. People need homes too.

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But what struck me the other day as I walked home?

A hint of sun on the hill, made the grass, and the young stems of the trees – there are plenty of willow in yellow and red – shine against the black of their trunks and branches. It was a Psalm 121 moment – I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

A spring in my step, though nothing material had changed. The car park, graffiti and the intrusive buildings were still there, but look beyond!

The window looks out onto real hills, the Black Mountains of South Wales.

 

Beside the Thames

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Last Autumn I wrote about a walk along the Thames near Richmond, with Belted Galloway cattle near the end of it. Today I walked from Waterloo to Lambeth beside a river confined by embankments, with light shipping passing by the Palace of Westminster and cyclists, joggers, dog-walkers and tourists in both directions along the path, not all looking where they were going.

One thing I was hoping to see, but only saw when I wasn’t looking for it – a cormorant. Picture this, if you will, flying past the Houses of Parliament; I was on the opposite bank.

In my youth anyone falling in the River might have died from poisoning. They even kept my little brother in hospital for observation after he fell into the Serpentine Lake in the park (and I had to go home on the bus in wet clothes after dragging him out).

There must be enough fish in the river to satisfy those greedy cormorants.

When my mother and I visited my brother in hospital on the following Friday he was happy to say goodbye. Dinner had arrived – fish and chips and it looked really tasty! He’s still very fond of fish and there are even herons along the Serpentine these days.

RSPB image, see: http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/c/cormorant/index.aspx

A Walk in Scotland – 3 – Beyond Edinburgh’s Urban Fringe

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A few yards from the aqueduct an overbridge marked the end of urban sprawl and the start of a tamed but beautiful stretch of countryside. Not far ahead an orchid was growing at the water’s edge. How long has that been there?

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And away from the banks it was not quite roses, roses, all the way, though they were scenting the damp air.

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More thistles alongside them; this is Scotland; but also buttercups, forget-me-not, comfrey and more, all thriving in this green corridor.

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Half a mile into the walk and the trees have drowned the sound of the road, and all is green.

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To the North, framed by the developing haws of the Mayflower, the Hills can be seen through the haze: the rain is holding off.

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While it may have been too damp for dragonfly or mayfly to be on the wing, here they are in a blacksmith’s work of art. I like the way the fine lines of stems, ripples and tails add strength as well as beauty and interest to this gate. Near to it, small fry are gathered just below the surface.

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Is this our last bridge? We could enjoy extending this walk, but we have a destination, so time to leave the canal and climb up to the road.