Sunday, 23 March 2014

A Walk

An experimental piece...

A Walk

Heading out, I turn the key in the lock and shut the door. I walk to the end of the street and turn right on to the main road. The sky is as a slot machine toy globe, one half opaque in cloud, the other clear blue. I cross from the main path to the narrower side, railings partitioning the goit’s wild weeds from village level civilisation. My raincoat is a dull olive compared to the glossy green railing spears. I walk.

Turning left, the duck pond and children’s playground pass to my right. I turn again, behind pond and playground, hitting the brow of the hill, beginning the steep climb as quacks and flaps and childish cries fall away beneath me. The country lane is deserted, nothing but a trickle of rainwater and the remains of an occasional squashed frog to arrest my path. Woodland dominates to the right, farmland the left. The climb grow ever steeper. I keep a steady pace as lungs strain at the exertion of a 45o incline.

I leave the path, ducking under a swing barrier, crossing the bridge that runs over the stream which cascades down in waterfall white plumes over rock face. I make for the side of the hill, a series of uneven steps worn into mud bank. The climb is almost vertical, bearing me skyward, deeper into the forest, skipping over stepping stones across mud pools, the path wheeling left then right.

Still the path climbs, heading towards the back wall that separates the forest from the marshes of the Pennine Hills. Not so many sheep around these parts today. No sound now except wind winding through bowers. My own thoughts are twisting. Plots and day dreams and worries and hopes. Deciduous trees give way to fir and pine. Felled trunks litter the path side like plans that failed.

Here, at the apex of my climb, the black mud is thick and treacherous. A new detour must be found every fifty yards. The tracks of walkers previous and their dogs show the way. Paths carved into the grasses like a gorge forged by a fast moving river. Copses must be climbed, narrow channels negotiated like balancing on trapeze wire. The light is dimmest here, branches conceal the sky, winter’s unrelenting torrent of rain is till king of this domain, despite days of March sun.

The path turns downwards. At the corner wall, a single oak on which someone has placed a wreath. Beneath the branches a miniature graveyard of miniature gravestones to animals that passed this way. The road down is steep and muddier than ever. More trapeze work is required to cross fallen branches dug deep into the mud.

A deep ditch blocks my way as the wall takes an abrupt turn left. Like a dip in a rollercoaster track or skateboard half pike, the ditch channels runoff water from the hills, dry in summer, but for now still doing roaring trade in the backlog of winter. The only way over is via the narrow dry-stone wall, rough and unwieldy. The brave adventurer wants to cross the wall unaided, but in swinging one foot in front of the other an unconvinced hand grasps the square wire fence between finger and thumb, trying not to get clothing caught on the barbed tops. The first section is the roughest, the second half’s a doddle.

Steeper down we go, the path no more than a shoe width wide, flanked by bushes, each foot firmly planted before the next one is advanced. The derelict cottage is passed, no more than two partial walls remaining. Then we come to the half pike with twist. You just have to run this bit, the path careens downwards as it turns a full 180O, then climbs just as steeply. Yet once this is climb is completed, the route joins the main path and clear path runs all the way down to ground level. Grey squirrels flit across the path in front of you. The way is suddenly wide enough to swing a rhinoceros.

I emerge from the between pine trees, past the passing gate that I will take another day up on to the moors to gaze out to sea I pull up my jeans in order to hop over the style and through a horse gate on to the main path of the goit. Follow this path for as far as it will go and I will eventually come to the duck pond and playground. Instead I take a detour, negotiating puddles and crossing a field diagonally away from the path, then through another gate and another narrow, mud filled path to bring me to a road and past farm houses.

One more half pike, but this one runs for a quarter mile from apex to apex. At the end is the village. Almost home. I head down the hill, take the muddy path at the back fields, cross through the empty concrete football pitch planted in the middle of nowhere, then back out on to the main road. A little way further and I turn between the bus stop and barber’s pole to bring me to my street. One last minor hill to climb. I turn the key in the lock, leave my boots in the porch and greet a cat over excited at my return.

Get it done.

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