Travel at a Natural Pace; Enjoy the Journey

Twisted Oaks

It is a cold, grey but dry winter’s morning as I leave for a morning walk. I am soon out of the urban sprawl and into woodland.

I follow the path into a shallow cutting with gnarled and twisted oaks creating a canopy. The branches are bare and the low light gives something of the feel of a fantasy forest with magical, even malevolent, tree spirits. It is not frightening just quiet and calm.


In the clearings there are patches of yesterday’s snow although it is now dry everywhere elseoutside the wood. By early this ground will be blanketed with bluebells but there is little colour now. A few snowdrops are starting to appear but only the mosses and lichens on the exposed Nottingham (Bunter) sandstone outcrop provide any colour. The rock’s stratification is highlighted by erosion which shows the different coloured layers that were laid down by the water of a lake or sea even though now it forms a hill. The rounded pebble inclusions that are a distinctive feature of this sandstone are slowly being exposed and eroded out by the wind and rain.

There are squirrels hunting for acorns and other food on the ground under the oaks. They dash up into the trees as I approach but when I stand quietly they return and continue their foraging just a couple of metres away from me. All along the path there are molehills, many are old but there are fresh ones that have been thrown up overnight. There are piles of fresh earth every time I come this way.

Following the path up on to the outcrop the view opens out with gorse scratching a living on the thin, sandy soil. The spiny bushes will be full of yellow flowers later in the year and instead of today’s icy blast there will be warm breeze on this exposed high ground. On another hilltop a mile or so to the east Wollaton Hall is clearly visible now there are no leaves on the woodland in between. One of the best Elizabethan houses in England it, and its park, is just inside the Nottingham conurbation surrounded by suburbia and the University of Nottingham’s parkland campus. In the summer this is a place to sit and enjoy the view, to meditate, to think, or perhaps draw as the fancy takes the visitor.

But today it is too cold to be still for long so after a quick appreciation of the view I head back down out of the wind and into the slight protection of the oaks. I follow the path down the bank and all too soon I am back into suburbia. A short step down a narrow path between walls takes me to short walk through serried ranks of 1960s and 1970s houses that bring to mind the Malvina Reynolds’ song Little Boxes, a hit for Pete Seeger in 1962. Finally, I turn the corner and I am at my destination, my local shops and the coffee shop where I write this article. A coffee, a few hundred words and then I pick up the makings of dinner and set off to retrace my steps.

But everywhere there is so much to see, slow travel is possible even on the shortest journey. My morning walk was little more than half a mile. I can do it comfortably in ten minutes if I am in a hurry. Today I need to walk briskly to keep warm but am not in a rush; even so I had time to be attentive to appreciate my surroundings; to enjoy slow travel while going about my normal routine. Take the opportunity to really look at the familiar with fresh eyes; you may be surprised by how much there is to see and appreciate.


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Janice Hally (not verified) on 26 March, 2015 - 17:52

Put me in mind of the William Henry Davies poem with the lines: "What is this life if full of care We have no time to stand and stare?" So true. It's so good to take the time to appreciate the beauty of normality. Of course, since fiction's my game, it made me think it was the opening of a story, where, after the lovely descriptions, the idyll is shattered and the regularity of main character's life disrupted forever, when he makes a discovery of something under the dead leaves and is suddenly caught up in something that changes everything... ;)

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Karin-Marijke Vis (not verified) on 26 March, 2015 - 17:53

Agree with Jill. What a peace of mind a walk can bring, doesn't it?

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Jill Browne (not verified) on 26 March, 2015 - 17:53

Cold weather does focus the mind on the "getting there" but what a wonderful experience you've shared: the beauty of the moment. Lovely!

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