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A Mother’s Day Walk.

Long, early morning shadows and a blue sky.

With much of the world’s population confined to their homes, or at least only able to be outside if isolated from other people, my wife and I decided to take one of our regular walks in the forest to celebrate the day.

Our daughter is currently living about as far from home as it’s possible to get, in Darwin, Australia, where she works as a Teaching Assistant and is making plans to marry her Aussie fiancé who’s in the military. We started the day with a pleasant facetime connection from them, to wish Valerie ‘Happy Mother’s Day’.

Here, in the Forest of Dean, we’re able to step about two hundred yard down the road and up a steep path into the trees. It’s easy to avoid others here, and we frequently pass a whole walk without seeing another soul. That’s important, as I’m over 70, have a history of chest infections, and suffer from an auto-immune condition.

Valerie pauses in the woods to one side of our first climb.

Of course, today’s Sunday, and the kids are no longer required back at school on Monday due to the Corona virus outbreak now ruling our lives. So we expected to meet a few more groups and individuals today and set off earlier than usual, hoping to miss as many others as possible.

The sun was out, a cool breeze from the northeast teasing the treetops, and the ground underfoot mostly drying out following the wettest February on record and a pretty wet March so far. We still came across odd patches of wet mud and puddles across our path, but much of it was pleasant walking.

Some of the tracks are still alittle muddy.

On the outward leg, climbing much of the way, we saw no other walkers. Until we were almost at the top of our route, where we encountered another mature couple. We each kept our distance and exchanged pleasantries before continuing on our way. Where possible, we walk off track, following boar trails and the lesser-used paths often favoured by mountain bikers.

From the top of our route, we were on level ground through groves of oak and beech until we reached the first of the steep valleys that would take us back down. At the foot of this first vale, we came across a string of ten cyclists on their way up the path we’d just descended. We joked about the climb ahead of them and crossed the wider path to descend the valley they’d just climbed.

The valley is a lot steeper than it looks here!

At the bottom, we came to a surfaced ‘road’ – a track covered in grit to allow Forestry Commission vehicles to fell and cart away trees deemed ready for cropping. It is, after all, a working forest. One side of this track is fenced to enclose beavers that have been introduced in an attempt to prevent the brook flooding the village again. So far, their work seems to have achieved this aim.

We’ve never seen the beavers; they’re usually out at dawn and dusk, and we’d need torches to reach the area in time to see them. We were delighted to see a pair of mallard ducks on the stream this morning. The first time we’ve seen ducks there at all, and a good sign the changes to the ecology are working as predicted. Some day soon, we hope to find kingfishers darting their bright way through the branches down there.

No long lens on the phone, so I had to blow this up to show you the ducks.

We walked the flat track for a short distance and then climbed a narrow track where we’d once encountered an entire family of wild boar. They’d congregated on the brow of the hill, looking down at us as we stood at the foot of the hill, looking up at them. But no such sighting today, although there’s plenty of evidence of their searches for food with the disturbed ground here. A few years ago, the trees were thinned and the heavy vehicles caused a large dip in the pathway. That now fills with rainwater and forms a semi-permanent puddle used by newts as a seasonal breeding spot.

From this track, we were able to reconnect with the narrow trail we’d used early in our climb, and return to level ground at the end of this twisting, turning, steep track. There, we met a local man and his two rough collies. There’s enough room for us to stand the advised distance apart and we chatted about buzzards flying overhead and a red kite he’d seen yesterday.

The semi-permanent puddle where newts breed.

Back on the public footpath that let’s us enter the forest, we ended our walk with a brief chat with a neighbour splitting logs in the garden.

Simple pleasures and exercise outdoors: not to be taken for granted, but a welcome break from the negative news filling the broadcasts at the moment. How long this will continue is unknown, but we will, hopefully, always be able to escape into the forest and lift our spirits there. Today’s walk took us a little over 5 kilometres and involved a total climb of 230 feet. I had only my phone with me, so the pics are a little basic.

Many reading this won’t have this sort of escape available, so I share it in the hope it brings some vicarious relief for those trapped inside in cities and towns. Take care and stay well, folks.

18 Responses to “A Mother’s Day Walk.”

  1. Brandon

    Mother’s Day is such a symbolic holiday!

    Mother Nature and life, a time to celebrate.
    Easter, a time to celebrate death, also nearby.

    Fitting that the season is also ripe for this symbolism.
    Fall for some, Spring for others 🤔

    Beautiful.
    Thanks for sharing 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • stuartaken

      Thanks, Brandon. It’s always a day of mixed feelings for me. As a parent, I enjoy the way it celebrates my wife’s role in bringing up our lovely daughter. But, as a son, I always feel the loss of my own mother to a road accident when I was just 16. So, a touch of bitter sweet for me.

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  2. Paola

    Thank you Stuart, thank you for the beautiful pictures. Here in Italy spring is blossoming, but we are not allowed to enjoy it. Take care 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • stuartaken

      Thank you, Paola. We were in your lovely country in 2018, for our 30th wedding anniversary. We had a great time.
      Here in UK, spring is just getting started, but the current warm weather will soon have those buds bursting!
      We’re still allowed out for daily exercise, and the forest is on our doorstep, so we take full advantage. It must be truly awful being confined to your house. Hopefully, the sickness will soon leave your land and you’ll be free again. In the meantime, take care and stay well.

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    • stuartaken

      It must be so hard to be confined within the walls of a home. Hopefully, you’ll be able to step outside soon, Lynette. This pandemic is causing so much mysery, I think it’s up to all of us who can spread some sunshine to do so. Shouldn’t be too long before you can experience fresh air again! Stay safe and well.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    • Brandon

      Where is your isolation? And why?
      The isolation here allows us to still go out 😊 if you have the virus then self-isolation is more enforced.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • stuartaken

        Here, in the UK, we are allowed out for exercise. But, as I’m over 70 and have a history of chest problems, I have to stay safe. We have the good fortune that the Forest of Dean is withing easy reach on foot and we spend an hour or so each day walking, often with either no or very few contacts. So far, no cases recorded in the neighbourhood, Brandon. Hope you are safe and well.

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  3. Darlene

    How nice to get out for a walk. They say fresh air and sunshine are good for keeping the bad stuff away. Stay safe and healthy.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    • stuartaken

      Thanks, Darlene. We’re so lucky to be ‘in’ the forest. It’s a constant source of delight, and we walk every day, weather permitting! You, too, keep safe and well.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • stuartaken

        It’s certainly a good day to celebrate Mother Nature. But we have the privelege to do that daily here. We never take that for granted, and enjoy our location to the full.

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