Last year I heard my first cuckoo on 27th April, this year it was the 29th. I was listening to a radio programme recently when the presenter, a middle-aged lady, said that she had never heard a cuckoo, the nearest to it being in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony or Delius’s On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring. It made me think about what we have lost, since I am sure that she is not alone and this quintessential sound of spring, taken for granted for generations, is now rarely heard and in some parts of the country people never hear its familiar call. Cuckoo populations in England have declined by an estimated 65% since the early nineteen-eighties, less so in both Scotland and Wales. The lives of migratory birds are complex and it is therefore difficult to point to a single cause for this decline but ornithologists have noted that autumn droughts in Spain, through which cuckoos pass on their way to Africa, have depleted insect populations at a time when the birds most need them to replenish fat reserves. This results in higher mortalities on the migration route. To add to this habitat loss in this country and also dwindling populations of host birds gives the cuckoo fewer opportunities to interpolate their eggs into nests. Cuckoos are in danger of passing into folk mythology.
If our children and grandchildren are less likely to ever hear the sound of the cuckoo, what else are they to miss out on? This is a question being asked by many scientists, wildlife writers, conservationists and parents and the answers are often not that easy to digest. I do not want to depress my readers, who will be aware of the problems that beset the countryside today but I will make some observations that have occurred to me while I have been walking in the radius of Ewhurst village. Firstly, we have some of the loveliest countryside in England on our doorstep and we are lucky that much of it remains unspoilt. On many of these walks, even when lockdown eased and cars slowly but surely began to clog the roads again, it was possible to stand still and not hear the sound of traffic. The second point is that there is a network of public footpaths giving access to the country; it is one of the great freedoms of living in Britain that rights of way exist. This is a reason why rambling is a favourite pastime. Walking became popular in the nineteenth century when people working in factories sought escape from the city in their quite limited spare time. Increasingly though enclosure prevented people having access to the land and in April 1932 a communist inspired rambling group staged the mass trespass of Kinder Scout, the highest point of the Peak District. It was in the fall-out following this agitation that the Rambler’s Association formed in 1935. Today the Ramblers has over 100,000 members and continues to advocate the enormous benefits that walking in the countryside brings.
My guess is that the number of people enjoying the countryside since the pandemic began has multiplied many times over. After all, what else has there been to do? The terrible first weeks when people were cooped up indoors, unable to even visit a local park, are now behind us and the solace that nature gives in times of trouble is well recognised. Each of us takes what we want from the outdoors: on my leisured walks I often crossed paths with an avid runner who is undeterred by rain, snow, ice or claggy clay, he still runs the paths in shorts and running shoes, impervious to the conditions. I’d rather him than me!
I have trodden paths that I didn’t know existed and I admit this with some shame, as I have lived in the village nearly thirty years and known it for even longer. Lockdown made us all parochial and, for me, gave the opportunity to explore locally. I had wanted to study the natural history of the area in more detail when I retired and so the pandemic spurred me on to do this. I felt that there might be others who were unable to get out and that by describing my walks I could share the experience with them. It seems to me that keeping your eyes open gives purpose to a walk, although many would rightly argue that one doesn’t need a purpose for something that is giving pleasure.
What have I discovered in my walks? If I had to put my finger on one thing it would be the rich variety in the area. Each walk has its own special character and although the landscape has its features determined by the underlying geology, this is never monotonous or unchanging. We are lucky in sitting on the junction of rock strata, so that the Surrey Hills to the north are very different to the Weald in the south of the parish. Many of the walks cross this boundary and it is always illuminating to compare the flora and fauna of each region. In general, I would say that the Wealden clay gives rise to pastoral fields and woodland, whilst the green sandstone has a topography dominated by heathland.
Ancient woodland covers 2.5% of the UK and Surrey is claimed to have more trees than any other county; in the Surrey Hills AONB there are 4564 hectares of Ancient Wood. In the parish of Ewhurst you do not need to go far before you will find the classic signs of ancient woodland and looking over the village from the top of Pitch Hill it is difficult to make out human habitation amongst the dense tree cover. I have fallen in love with these woods over the last year and have watched them as the seasons change. No woodland is static, it is an evolving habitat adapting to a constantly changing environment, influenced by a multitude of factors including weather, animal and plant activity, human activity, and aging and disease processes.
Trees take a long time to reach maturity; investing in the planting of trees is to take the long view. I often think that an old tree is a means to commune with the reach of history, it gives me a shiver down the spine when I think what might have been happening when a massive oak or beech was a sapling. We should not sentimentalise this too much though because woodland is always in a process of regeneration, many of the woods I walk in are full of dead trees bent down and decaying. Look carefully and you will soon see that there are also young saplings, which will replace the old trees. One of the sad things I’ve witnessed this year is the progress of Ash dieback, a fungal disease which has spread into this country and at the moment is having its main impact in the south. Aerial views of local woods reveal the number of trees that have succumbed to the disease, altering the biodiversity of the habitats. The loss of the Ash trees will also be felt by creatures that depend on them for food and shelter. The long term effects will see the range of tree species in woodland and hedges reduced and this is the last thing we want when many species are in decline. Unfortunate as all this is I did notice a whole group of sapling ash trees colonising an area of Upper Canfold Wood, a wood that has experienced extensive felling this year, which may give hope that the ash could be more resilient than we suppose.
Trees become landmarks, perhaps retaining symbolic meanings that have ancient associations. Yew trees are traditionally found in graveyards and their remarkable longevity is fitting in a place that celebrates the transit into eternal life. The yew in St Peter and St Paul is bowed with age, its lower branches reaching down into the earth supporting its geriatric frame. The tree may have been planted when the original twelfth century church was built, I think it has, after nine centuries, earnt the right to have a rest now. We have lost other venerable trees in recent years: a great ash tree stood outside the veterinary surgery but was deemed unsafe and had to be felled and just a couple of weeks ago the oak at the top of the cemetery had a similar fate. This was very sad as it formed a striking silhouette at sunset in winter, a giant standing sentinel over the dead. Gerard Manley Hopkins’ (1844-1889) poem Binsey Poplars is a passionate lament for the death of beloved trees in Oxford and it also warns that those of us in the present have a duty to future generations: a message we would do well to heed today:
My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That dandled a sandalled
Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering
O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew-
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To touch, her being so slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we meanGerard Manley Hopkins
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc unselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.
I feel Hopkins’ pressing engagement with those ‘After-comers’ and when I walk often wonder what kind of a world we are leaving to future generations. It is vital that we listen to the voices of the young and it is heartening to witness the way that Greta Thurnberg has inspired thousands of children to protest and challenge business driven adults to rethink the way we use our precious natural resources.
Green politics is drip-feeding into public consciousness and there are many positive moves at a local level. The other day I was returning from my second vaccination, in the early evening just as the light was fading and I saw what I swear was a pig or boar in Upper Canfold Wood. Jackie said it must be the after-effects of the jab but it was a vivid sight. I asked around and discovered that there have been other sightings. This reminded me of an exciting green-shoots project on the Knepp estate in West Sussex. The essential idea has been to reintroduce large herbivores into areas of the estate, letting these “manage” the vegetation as it would have been done when wild boars, aurochs and tarpans would have freely roamed the extensive woodland. The owners introduced native grasses and wildflowers and then allowed things to evolve. They have had striking results with butterflies, moths and other insects repopulating the new habitats, in their wake birds, species which are in sharp decline elsewhere, have arrived, as well as bats, reptiles and amphibians and myriad wildflowers. Truly, the land has healed itself. Another similar project is the First World War Centenary Wood at Langley Vale, Surrey. The Woodland Trust acquired this land in 2014 and set about transforming the existing arable land, planting 180,000 trees and seeding open field with wildflowers. In a short time the habitat was attracting birds and animals, many Red listed species, and has become a sanctuary for wildlife. A fascinating history led to it being chosen as a memorial, as this area was home to Tadworth Camp during the First World War, used to train soldiers destined for the trenches. Last year my friend Tim Richardson, who is the site historian, showed me where the gas training school, rifle range and practise trenches had been. A timber flag pole from the gas training school remains in Round Wood. A group of statues commemorates soldiers, a moving way of showing how the men were so intimately linked to the land they fought in and a sculpture made of oak and based on John Nash’s wartime paintings of woodland, including quotations from seven war poets, is soon to be open to the public.
Neither Knepp nor Langley Vale are far from Ewhurst and both have been rewilded in a short space of time. It strikes me that we have an even better opportunity to take a leaf out of their books, since we already have so much ancient woodland and unspoilt country. When I was looking round the Tadworth site I was constantly aware of the hum of the M25, which cuts through this area of downland and I realised how lucky we are to be able to enjoy relative tranquillity and quiet. Whether the pig or pigs in Ewhurst woods is part of a rewilding project I don’t know (but would love to find out) but it is worth thinking about ways in which habitats can be made more wildlife friendly and certainly the herbivores at Knepp suggest that the ground disruption they cause has a very beneficial impact for flora and fauna. Woodland in the past was not uninterrupted tree cover, herbivores eating low growth and saplings saw to this and the woodland landscape would have been a patchwork quilt of glades, open scrubland and tree cover, with different trees forming different densities of cover. This allowed a rich variety of wildlife to live. Today residual evidence of these habitats can still be seen, for example hedgerows bordering fields and roads reproduce glades where open land, with lots of light is also close to tree cover. This is why there are many wildflowers along these margins and why it is excellent cover for wood dwelling birds and mammals that have the security of the hedge and the opportunities of the field nearby.
A vital element of conservation is to provide corridors for wildlife. Benedict MacDonald in his fascinating study of bird populations Rebirding makes the excellent point that, ‘No impulse exists in our resident birds to cross hostile habitats and find a better home.’ Unlike human beings of the last century or so, birds are not commuters and many of them are circumscribed by the limitations of their natal homes. MacDonald points out that when a bird population reaches a critical point in a given area, even if the habitat is rehabilitated, birds will not miraculously turn up on the doorstep again. There may be two ways of overcoming this problem, firstly to reintroduce species, as has been done with success with some species, for example the Red Kite or to create wildlife corridors linking up habitats. For example, hedges, which to a bird looks like a thin line of woodland, provide a route across those “hostile” habitats. Much as planting trees is to be commended, it has to be done with environmental sensitivity: birds and other animals will not just arrive at an area of wood plonked down in the middle of nowhere. Unless a strategy for encouraging wildlife is devised, good intentions may go awry.
There are many animals and birds which seem to have done very well in the last twenty years or so; I will mention some of these, as I feel it is not helpful for conservationists to only draw attention to the gloomy aspects of the environment. Birds of prey have benefitted from laws protecting them from persecution and the Buzzard has been one of the most impressive and commonly sighted birds in my rambles. They have been nesting in the woods and their high mew is a familiar sound betraying their presence. Another raptor that I’ve seen more and more often is the Red Kite, a bird that was driven to near extinction in this country; it has made a remarkable comeback and its range has spread right across the south. This is a very big bird that almost seems to darken the skies like a black rider from Lord of the Rings. As I mentioned, this has been a successful reintroduction which has come west from Wales and the Oxford area. Birds seem to have followed the motorway network, where embankments have become surprisingly fertile hunting grounds; seeing kites hovering by the roadside is an indication of how nature adapts to modern circumstances. Sparrow hawks, a smaller raptor, fly low and fast; one came down my drive a while ago, passing just a couple of feet past my head and I could almost feel my hair ruffled in its wake. Again, this species is not uncommon in the parish.
These birds are at the apex of the food chain and have few enemies. Many smaller birds have struggled with changing farm practice and habitat loss. Field birds have been hard hit recently and species once common are now rare, birds such as Yellowhammers, Linnets, Corn Buntings, Greenfinch and Bullfinch no longer fill the hedgerows with their nests and song. Even the House Sparrow is now on the Red List because of an alarming decline in numbers, a status it shares with the once abundant Starling and the previously common garden denizen, the Song Thrush. Summer is no longer signalled by the return of House Martins, Swallows or Swifts, birds that return to their birth sites, often to find these changed. Having said this, there are birds which have fared well. Goldfinches were rarely seen in gardens when I was a boy and now are common visitors to the bird-table and feeders. They have adapted to the supplementary food that we humans put out for them and particularly like niger seed and sunflower hearts, which have become widely available. Many people complain of Wood Pigeons and the damage they do in the vegetable garden, though I find their gentle call rather soothing, but their rise in numbers is undeniable. I read that one driver for this increase is the growing of Rape seed as a cash crop, which they appear to love. Another bird which has adapted well to suburban life is the Blue Tit and its cousin the Great Tit: these are woodland birds but they have taken the opportunity to cadge off their human neighbours. Similarly, the Robin’s natural habitat is woodland but these birds are common garden visitors. Siskins are also drawn to food that we provide, as are Jackdaws and Carrion Crows. People are more likely to see woodpeckers in their gardens, particularly if they are near woods and Blackbird numbers seem to be sustained. The list could go on.
This also points to the important role that our gardens can play in encouraging wildlife. Writers like Dave Goulson in The Garden Jungle give us guidance on how to attract animals, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians into our backyards. Planting flowers that are rich in nectar will bring insects, which in turn will be a food source for birds and reptiles. Setting up an area to grow wild can lead to a plenitude of wildflowers, which are lovely to look at and, again, good for creatures. Alice and Eddie Breeveld have led the way in Ewhurst, seeding the verge outside their house with fantastic results and an amazing range of flowers and grasses. In a similar way the churchyard has been left wild in the summer months, with a rich variety of species drawing the buzz of bees and other insects among the graves. Little oases like these can form wildlife corridors allowing animals to migrate into different parts. Goulson points out that it is not necessary to have a big garden, even a square metre or less “set aside” will entice nature in. It is even better if you can add a tiny pond, I have seen an upside-down dustbin lid used as a water basin; water is a key element in any habitat. These inducements are not labour intensive and give the benefit of nature watching without going beyond your own gate. They are a way of counteract the loss of green space caused by the necessity of creating paved areas to park cars or the increasing land given over to development.
Small measures can have big returns and nature quickly fills in a space. We saw amazing pictures of animals entering towns and cities in the first lockdown; the empty streets provided foraging for opportunist animals. It was also remarked that during this unprecedented period, when roads were deserted and the skies ceased to be a passageway for planes that pollution levels fell dramatically. Conservation cannot turn back the clock; we can look wistfully at the many photographs of Ewhurst from one hundred years ago, when the village was still a hamlet with tracks winding through it and hardly a car in sight, and long for a return to those days. They portray waysides crowded with summer flowers that burst onto narrow roads where nature is still in charge and it is easy to be seduced by this idyll. Nostalgia, though, is an indulgence and sentimentalising the past is disingenuous, overlooking the hardship that people of a century ago suffered. We cannot halt the march of progress and a longing for the past may well be misguided. Ewhurst has grown significantly in the past century but has, I think, retained a village atmosphere and there is a feeling that villagers still care about their environment and, most importantly, about what happens to their neighbours. It has kept that vital element, a community spirit.
This has led me to think a lot about a sense of place, one of the aims of my rambles has been to articulate what I feel is distinctive about Ewhurst and its surrounding countryside. I am aware it has become a very individual quest and points to the importance of my perceptions, the view of the observer in relation to the observed. Putting this another way, I carry within me a culture of beliefs, concepts and predilections which determine a significance for specific places which may have no meaning to another person. Jonathan Bate, a pioneer of a new mode of critical theory called ecocriticism, draws attention to this idea, tracing it to the phenomenological philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) who coined the term Dingerfahrung meaning ‘thing-experience’. Bate discusses the poet John Clare (1793-1864) in the light of this:
Clare’s world-horizon was the horizon of the things-the stones, animals, plants, people-that he knew first and knew best. When he went beyond that horizon, he no longer knew what he knew.The Song of the Earth, Jonathan Bate. 2000
He goes on to say that, ‘Clare’s poetry is the record of his search for a home in the world.’ I would add that Clare invites us to be a part of nature, dwelling within it and not above it; one frequent motif in his poetry is the idea of getting inside the natural world and sharing this space with other creatures. Here are some lines from The Fallen Elm, a Mavis is country dialect for Song Thrush:
The Childern sought thee in thy summer shadeJohn Clare
And made their playhouse rings of sticks and stone;
The mavis sang and felt himself alone
While in thy leaves his early nest was made
And I did feel his happiness mine own,
Not heeding that our friendship was betrayed-
The last line is an intimation of the dreary dispossession that befalls us all, for the elm is to die and fall. Clare himself is to experience exile, as the enclosures shut him out of the Northamptonshire countryside that was his life-blood. And yet his vision is one of a shared world in which children play alongside the thrush in a happy unity. I think what most strikes me about nature is its interdependence, it may be brutal as it is driven by the survival of the fittest, but ultimately it is a jigsaw in which every bit fits. It happens without consciousness, animals and plants exist as beings in the world for a given time and the cycle of nature continues. In some far distant time human ancestors may also have existed in this way but at some point we stepped outside this network, beginning to shape the world to our own ends. It began early too, the Neolithic 4000 to 3000 BC saw farming come to Britain and with this there was extensive land clearance. Pollen analysis reveals a decline in Ash trees during this period, as the ash lives on the edge of woods this suggests that wildwood was being cleared to make way for agriculture. There was an attendant growth in population and Oliver Rackham, who was a prominent tree ecologist, estimates that by the Iron Age, dating around 800BC, over half of Britain was no longer wildwood and that there was a population of over one million. To sustain these levels of population it became a necessity to exploit natural resources, using increasingly effective tools to do so; land was given over to agriculture and urban centres grew in size.
Truly wild pockets of land no longer exist in this country but rich and important habitats do, some of these areas protected and others not. It seems to me that our first task is to recognise these and outstanding progress has been made in setting up National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Nature Reserves and many other sites run by wildlife organisations, such as Wildlife Trusts, The Woodland Trust, The National Trust and the RSPB. Hopefully these places are saved for all time and will remain sanctuaries for nature and for people to visit and enjoy. This is all good news but it is the grey areas that worry me, places which fall outside the protective remit but remain important habitats. I think much of Ewhurst’s countryside falls into this category, with its large ancient woodlands and a network of hedgerows and field margins. In 2019 The State of Nature UK report had this to say about the 2.4% of Ancient Woodland left in the UK:
Ancient woodlands across the UK have been lost through conversion to plantation forestry and face continued threat from infrastructure and housing development.The State of Nature 2019
It is chastening to think that a large part of this tiny percentage is to be found in Surrey and Sussex. What we take for granted, a spring walk in a bluebell wood or the chance sighting of a badger in the evening is not something people living in most other parts of the UK can enjoy. Recognising the uniqueness and value of this habitat is a tremendously important step. These woods have stood for centuries: they can be destroyed in less than a day.
Another fragile habitat forming an important element in the local landscape is found in the heathland regions on the hills. Winterfold, Pitch Hill and Holmbury Hill. The infertile sandstone soils are ideal for trees such as Scots Pine and Silver Birch, whilst heather, gorse, bilberry and bracken form ground cover. Old photos of the Surrey Hills reveal how landscapes change, as the heath at the turn of the twentieth century was open country with just a few pine trees dotted about, whilst today there is quite a dense tree cover, with a noticeable increase in silver birch. The Wildlife Trusts estimate that 85% of England’s heath cover has been lost to agriculture and afforestation in the last 150 years. Heathland remains the home to many rare species of birds, insects and reptiles and if the habitat becomes marginalised and too small an area many of these will not survive. Unfortunately the hills are now a mecca for off-road cyclists who plough up the land with little regard for the delicate balance these eco-systems require. We have to think of ways in which pastimes are able to coexist alongside threatened habitats.
This brings me back to sense of place, for without this it is impossible to pinpoint what is worth conserving and why it should be. Walking is a special occupation. Darwin took a daily walk near his Kent home, Down House, he passed through woodland and back along hedge-lined fields, a classic English stroll. He called this route his ‘thinking path’, as he unravelled the complexity of his ideas into forms which could be expressed. Wordsworth was famous for prodigious hikes across the fells of Lakeland, inspired by, ‘The ghostly language of the ancient earth’ and finding deep in his psyche a link with elemental being. Often Wordsworth walked in company, with his sister Dorothy or his friend the poet Coleridge: it would have been a marvel to eavesdrop on these conversations and understand the workings of their genius. Wordsworth had an almost primeval urge to understand his own relationship to place and his poetry often portrays figures who appear to fuse into the landscape in which they dwell. Other writers have become associated with one place, Gilbert White spent most of his working life studying the natural history and archaeology of Selborne in Hampshire. His intimacy with this hamlet allowed him to look inward as well as focusing his attention on what had been overlooked in past generations. His close study of nature and logical analysis of his observations led other amateur naturalists to look at their own home areas with keen eyes.
I often have the words of poets and other writers in my head when I am walking. Paul Celan was a Romanian Jew, in a German-speaking family. His parents were killed in concentration camps by the Nazis and he managed to survive internment in a labour camp. Celan’s poetry is often, unsurprisingly, dark and grapples with questions of being and history. In a letter Celan writes a line which seems to me to ground what happens as we humans walk across the land, he says that, ‘There are the tracings of ‘what is’, ‘what has been’ and ‘what will be’. An article last year by anthropologist Ann Gibbons in the magazine Science opened with an evocative description:
One day about 120,000 years ago, a few humans wandered long the shore of an ancient lake in what is now the Nefud Desert in Saudi Arabia. They may have paused for a drink of fresh water or to track a herd of elephants, wild asses, and camels that were trampling the mudflats. Within hours of passing through, the humans’ and animals’ footprints dried out and eventually fossilized.Ann Gibbons
These people were nomads and explorers; they may well have been part of the human migration that spread into the Middle East and Eurasia. They have left evidence in the strata of their walk. Whenever we walk, we are walking where others have been, time and history lie beneath our feet, as Celan remarks. Calling to mind what other people have said about place has allowed me to try to make sense of my own place. I have discovered that this takes me into the heart of our being and also that that elusive concept can never properly be grasped. The past is etched onto the landscape, villages grow around ancient beginnings which are signalled by buildings like hill-forts or roman villas or churches or manor houses or farm buildings or derelict industrial sites. The paths we walk are routes which people have followed for generations, some of the observations we might make in the country will be an echo of a similar one made perhaps hundreds of years ago. As we finish a walk it becomes absorbed into that heritage of the past and we turn to the next ‘What is’. There is always something new to see, some different slant of eye to observe from. Celan’s troubled interaction with history leads to his last, ‘what will be’: a question that I think became unbearable for him as he committed suicide in 1970, age 49 years old. It is, of course, a question all environmentalists have on their lips and we all know that we cannot answer it.
I would like to dedicate these pieces to my brother Mark, who shared my earliest experiences of the natural world.
I am grateful to all the readers who have travelled with me through this year and for the many comments they have made. “On the road” I have met many interesting wayfarers to exchange thoughts with and my writing has benefitted from these chance encounters.
Members of the Cranleigh Writers’ Group have been incredibly supportive and their gentle criticisms have been invaluable. I would especially like to mention Trish Broomfield who has been so generous with her time reading my ramblings and always enthusiastically receptive. Miki Marks has been a wise and helpful guide, with a huge local knowledge and stimulating ideas. Brigid Fayers, Jeremy Elson and Colin Ward have always been supportive friends and Brigid’s own observations of wildlife have inspired me on the way. Linda Obee has made me press on when I have felt down, as her comments are always uplifting. Sadly, my great friend Philip Jones died this year and all I can say is that he was my kindest critic.
Ewhurst LEAP have also been wonderful. Eddie Breeveld has always posted my articles on the website without complaint. He and Alice are an inspiration to conservationists and I hope that I have highlighted their work in Ewhurst. Claire McGill has been the most considerate of readers and made me feel that I have an audience out there. James Bloomfield’s knowledge of ecology humbles me and I have enjoyed several conversations on green issues with him, when I should have been clearing a pond or cutting back an overgrown path. Joanna Cadman’s devotion to local causes, including LEAP, never fails to amaze me.
Tim Richardson’s enthusiasm for local history is infectious and he has educated me in the best possible way.
Closer to home I have had the privilege of experts in the family. My daughter Jessica and her partner Ben have made me think in a scientific way, have provided loving company and the feeling that it is worthwhile to pursue my interests.
Finally, I would have done none of this without Jackie. She has been with me come rain or shine and has endured my “David Attenborough” type lectures on obscure mosses or mushrooms as we have explored the village together. Walking might be about observing and thinking but it is also about love and companionship.