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Woodland Edge

Ramblings of a (would be) Volunteer Ranger, Part 3!

You may know, if you’ve read my previous blog, that I consider myself a novice walker and on this occasion, the challenge started before leaving the house – gaiters!  Those funny things you can put over your lower leg and boots in an effort to remain as dry as possible.  Now, I do have waterproof trousers, but they’re lined and not suitable for summer walking so, in an effort to be prepared, I’d brought some gaiters from a well-known outdoor retailer.  The previous few days had been particularly wet and it would seem foolish not to wear them; I know they’re not attractive or in with any latest fashion – although these days there is probably someone who can ‘pimp your gaiters’!

So, on they went but something wasn’t right, what do I do with this little metal hook thingy? Doh!  They’re on the wrong way round – good start!  I got myself sorted and set off, feeling a little conspicuous but hopefully everyone can see I’m a walker; I have the boots, the trousers, the rucksack, fleece, and obviously, just in case anyone’s in doubt, the gaiters!!

Setting off for my monthly ‘review’ walk, it’s a short step from home to pick up the Way where it runs through the village, and on first turning onto the trail it was very muddy – as I said, we’d had a lot of rain and, to be honest, it's probably also because this particular stretch is popular with dog walkers and is well used.  As well as noting anything which might need ‘sorting’, I tried to find my own little highlights; such as the odd poppy growing amongst the crops, the view of a well-known Leicestershire landmark in the distance etc.  Being able to see the path would be good but as I moved into the next section of the walk, I couldn’t see where it was.  I thought I knew where it should be, but with the time of year and recent amount of rainfall, plus the fact this part isn’t so well used yet, the grass had sprung up to hip height –and it had only been a month since I was there!

Hoping I was going the right way I carried on and hey presto, the path became visible, only for the grass to take over again further along.  Still not quite sure it was the right direction, the instructions said turn left, but there didn’t appear to be anywhere to turn left so I carried on and, fortunately, I was right.  The sight of an all-important route marker brought huge relief.  More notes needed; the actual marker post had been uprooted and twisted around – potentially meaning anyone walking in the opposite direction could be wrongly directed.  Noted and photographed!

It was around this point that I turned off Radio 2 (sorry Graham Norton!).  Thinking it would keep me company, and because I’m a big radio listener, I’d taken along my MP3 player.  However, after being overtaken by a running dog I hadn’t heard coming up behind me it seemed sensible to listen to the sounds of nature rather than blot them out.

Ploughing on, the note-taking continued, albeit messily, and the library of photos grew.  There were a couple more points of confusion – was it the directions or my interpretation of them?  Probably the latter!  Chiff chaffs, yellow hammers and skylarks were now my musical accompaniment as I pushed on through a very overgrown gate and shoulder-height grass (I’m not very tall!) – all noted and photographed. 

Fields full of crops are part of the route and, to my untrained eye, they looked like they were growing well. It was good to see that the paths through the middle were clearly visible and I took great care not to encroach on anything growing.  Up a short hill where there was a livestock warning – none around today though – and another view of that landmark in the distance.  At the top, lovely open space and a bench – time for a snack and some water.  It was a good place to sit, contemplate and enjoy the view.

Break over and into the last few sections.  There’s a lovely long straight stretch which is obviously looked after – recently cut and a delight to walk along.  It was quiet and peaceful – a buzzard floats across in front of me; more skylarks to serenade me.  At one point, the trees arch high across the path, meeting in the middle – this would be valuable shade on a hot day.

Nearly there, and my first field full of cows – EEK!  I was well into the field before I saw them but the instructions were to keep left and this was well away from them.  They kept an eye on me and me on them, but all was well and I passed quickly into the next field.  A couple of kissing gates, intertwined with vegetation, followed by a very overgrown, fast disappearing, stile and I was back into a populated area close to the end of my walk.

Taxi for Robinson and it’s back home to write up my report and try and figure out which photos are which!