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Woodland Edge

Ramblings of a (would be) Volunteer Ranger - Part 2!

Volunteers Countryside Walk

Carla Robinson, one of the team at the National Forest Company, finally gets out on the trail!

A few weeks after tool training, and being acutely aware 'the professionals' were already more than active on their sections, I took a day's leave and joined Caroline and my fellow volunteer to 'walk the Way'.  Being typically British, after making arrangements, both eyes were on the weather.  The week before our scheduled walk, it turned HOT - not good from my point of view.  The weekend before, the forecast was heavy rain - still not good!  The day before, the forecast looked perfect, with a window in the morning when we were due to walk, when it would be dry and cloudy. If we were unlucky, we might catch a shower at the end. Plus, the temperature had reduced to a much more comfortable level for walking - perfect!

Unfortunately, on the day, the forecast changed again (curse those hourly forecasts!) but hey, I didn't want to be the lightweight who cried off - plus it wasn't yet raining.

A few light showers saw us on our way but just that, light.  The sound of a rarely heard cuckoo lifted my spirits but we hadn't gone far before our first challenge. According to the directions there was a marker post mid-field. Unfortunately, the post appeared to have gone for its own walk but we were able to work out the path to follow and immediately came across another obstacle. A stile - of which there was no chance of using - in fact, it was almost impossible to tell it was a stile as it was completely overgrown, not to mention broken. This had obviously not been used in a very long time. Wondering why no-one had contacted us about this, we could see from a well-worn path along the edge of the field that other walkers had found their own way along what turned out to be the route the landowner would obviously much rather we took, as he'd helpfully marked it as a permissive route a little further along.

We were well into our stride and as we headed towards my village across the fields, I heard another bird which seems to be fast disappearing - the yellowhammer. Haven't heard one locally for a couple of years - although that could be due to too much driving and not enough walking!  Passing through the village, we crossed the main road and once again headed out across the countryside. But wait! OMG! What is this fabulous landscape we're walking through? Is this really where I live?! Lovely little woodlands that have been created over the years and which offer up beautiful places to walk and much needed habitat for wildlife? My fellow volunteer and I were impressed, and maybe just a little bit shamed, that we didn't know what was literally on our doorsteps. Even with the ever increasing rain, there was a spot where the three of us said 'look at the view!’ and tried to imagine what it would be like on a clear, sunny day.

We ploughed on towards our destination and, as we crossed an open field close to the end, the heavens opened big style! Now the water was soaking through to skin and my glasses began to steam up - not good if you need to see where you're walking.

We made it! Three hours after setting out, we reached the other end of the stage - completely sodden, but very happy. Happy to have made it without getting lost, happy to have discovered hidden delights, and, if I'm really honest, happy to be able to go home and dry off. Such was the state of my trousers, however, they had to be removed on the doorstep. Luckily, my husband was at home and able to provide a towel - sparing my blushes and the neighbours' horror!

So, I made it. No problems. It didn't leave me a huffing and puffing mess, just a bit, well actually a lot, soggy. 

But that was a few weeks ago and the confidence I felt after completing the walk that day has subsided somewhat. However, a gentle prod has arrived in the form of a walker contacting the office to let us know about a few niggles on a particular stage of the Way - 'my' stage of the Way!! Luckily, we had picked up the same niggles on our walk, except for the one where the footpath at one point has now disappeared under a crop!! A reminder of how, in a few weeks, crops and vegetation can grow swiftly at this time of year but OH THE RESPONSIBILITY I felt. On the bright side, it was a great feeling to have some first-hand knowledge of the location he was talking about. It was also the reminder I needed that it was time for another walk - best foot forward an' all that!

Until next time...