#30DaysWild – Do something wild everyday for a month

If you are reading this blog, you are probably interested in the outdoors. You may even go regularly on trips during your days off, enjoying a full day out and maybe even a night under the stars. But what about your immediate outdoors? What do you know about them?

Can you step outside of your house and name all the green areas? Can you tell me the plants and animals that live along your commute route? Do you make room for nature in your everyday life?

For the last few of years, The Wildlife Trusts have been asking those questions, helping people to bring nature into their everyday life with their #30DaysWild campaign every June.

I first took part two years ago and was surprised to discover how little time I took for nature in my everyday life. I ignored the park between my work and home, I whizzed through London on my bike without ever pausing to observe wildlife around, and I slept with my windows closed to the outside world. Nature was for my days off. I was aware of its presence around me, but it was shadowed by buildings, cars, and masses of people.

I began to read outside and got distracted by insects crawling up my leg. I noticed flowers outside of my office window. I picked up nature books and learned to name trees and animals around me. And after 30 days, my world had been transformed. I was not living in a concrete jungle as I had first thought. I was living surrounded by wildlife. There were squirrels in the tree outside my window, flowers and bees at the train station, and families of water birds on the New River that I came to recognise and care about.

So what are you waiting for, stop reading this post and head over to The Wildlife Trusts website and sign up for #30DaysWild. You’ll be surprised what you’ll discover.

An impromptu road trip to Exmoor National Park

The Easter bank holiday week-end was getting close. I was due to work most of it, but I had a couple of days off during the week. Spurred by the holiday mood and the longer brighter days, I decided to go on a microadventure. I would take my bicycle, head to Glastonbury and then the seaside. But something about this plan felt wrong. I would be on my own, leaving my partner behind for yet another excursion.

I had been away a lot recently, using my days off to meet up with friends, attend events, or simply do my own thing. Indulging in another solo trip felt selfish and uncaring. So I changed my plan.

‘How do you fancy going to Exmoor on Wednesday,’ I asked her as we got ready for bed at the beginning of the Easter week.
‘This Thursday?’
‘Yes. We could book a B&B and have a little road trip with Exmoor as a vague direction. What do you think?’
‘Okay.’

We opened our laptops and began the search for a place to sleep. On my own I wouldn’t have bothered. I would have packed the tent and headed off somewhere new. But camping, and especially wild camping, is not everybody’s cup of tea. We found a reasonably priced room, booked it, and went to sleep. We were set to go later that week.

We packed our bags hastily, threw them in the car, took our seat and began to negotiate the roads of Bristol before finding an escape into country lanes. We meandered happily to the music blasting off the radio. The hills of the Mendips flattening out as we reached Wells. We parked the car and began our exploration. We stumbled upon St Cuthbert’s Church, its grandeur reflected inside and out with its brightly painted roof and many sculptures.

We lingered a while before giving in to the call of our stomachs. We settled in a coffee shop, tucked in a small street away from the high street and sat at one of the tables.

‘What can I serve you,’ the owner asked.
‘A latte with your Columbian roast and a cappuccino with soya milk please.’
But soon our orders had been changed. The latte would be with another blend as the flavours would shine more, and the cappuccino would be with oat milk as their experimentation had proved more successful with such milk.

The drinks arrived, we ordered our food, and sipped tentatively at the coffees. The owner had been right to change our orders. We chatted lazily as the food arrived, handmade and flavoursome. More customers began to walk in, all known faces in the shop, chatting with the owners about the events in their lives and the news from town.

I would have liked to soak in this genteel atmosphere for a while longer but time was ticking on and we wanted to see the cathedral. We happily paid for the service and went out, this time towards the centre. We were stopped by a sweet shop, filling up on favourites and unknowns for the road, before we finally managed to reach the imposing building.

Set over a small park, the cathedral dominates everything around it. Big and bold, it declaims its importance, a centre of power more than a place of worship. I marvelled at the architecture, its features reminding me of religious French architecture. I would have like to go inside but the price of entry was too much for the little time we had left before our parking ticket expired. So we walked away, taking a route through residential streets, observing another part of the city.

We drove on, past Glastonbury and its Tor, and into the Somerset levels. We selected small roads passing between green pastures and yellow rapeseed fields rather than busier arteries filled with cars and lorries.

‘Can we turn back and have a look at that ruin,’ I asked my partner craning my neck to look behind us.

Alone on a hill, stood what looked like the remains of a church. It probably wasn’t much but I wanted to check it out. We weren’t driving for the sole purpose of reaching our destination. Stopping was an integral part of the trip. So we turned back and pulled into the small parking lot by the hill. A signed informed us that the hill was named Burrow Mump and the building on top was the remain of an 18th century church. We climbed the short walk up and were immediately taken aback. Whichever way we turned, we could see for miles, the countryside spreading in every direction, farmed and ploughed. In the far distance, the tower of Glastonbury Tor appeared a dot in the landscape.

‘It’s quite a view, isn’t it?’ A woman had appeared, surprising us by her presence. For a few minutes this mound had been ours, the stronghold of our kingdom.
‘Absolutely,’ we agreed.
Lillian, as she was called, had lived in the area for most of her life. She was actually from the Quantock Hills were we were heading. She gave us tips and told us of the best places to go, knowledge more valuable than the ones from guidebooks. We thanked her, chatted a while longer about legends and stories of the mound, before walking back to the car park together, each on our separate ways.

The land rose and our views become restricted by hills once more as we approached Wiveliscombe. We checked in our accommodation and relaxed for a while before setting on foot to explore the village. Out of the high street, the roads narrowed, gently ascending, while in the distance the hills filled our visions. It was Thursday night and there was barely a soul out. Lights were beginning to shine from house’s window. It was just another week night for most of the population. But not for us. We had been transported to another world, a place of hills and quiet where time slowed. Here, we had time for an evening stroll. Chores didn’t seem urgent and the only reason to walk back was the encroaching darkness and the call of food.

We settled in a corner of a busy family pub and ordered food and drink, scheming for the following day. Reluctant for the evening to end, we ordered another round of drinks and relaxed in our seats. It wasn’t until children high on sugar began to run all over the pub that we retreated to the shelter of our room. Tired from a long day on the road, we slid under the cover and fell asleep.

The next day as we were finishing our breakfasts, a group of men arrived, ordering beer with their food, the start of their Easter celebration. I wondered if their four days week-end was going to be fuelled by alcohol only. I shrugged. I guess we had different ways to celebrate days off from work.

We packed up, paid for our room, and went on our way. We headed for Dunster, taking as many small roads as we could find. Enclosed between high hedges our views were often limited but as soon as they disappeared we were greeted with wide valleys and big hills, the landscape managed but largely inhabited. We passed a sign welcoming us in Exmoor National Park, cars growing rarer until we approached our destination.

We parked and made straight for the tourism office. There we asked for direction to the Giant’s Chair. We had read the name in a leaflet the previous day and it sounded like a nice spot to hike to and we liked the name.

‘You get fantastic views up there. Let me show you on a map.’ She got the relevant one out and began tracing the paths with her fingers. ‘Don’t go this way, this is steep, really steep,’ she commented as she followed the direct line to the hill top. ‘Instead you can go via ducky path or goosey path. They’re more gentle.’ The two paths formed an oval around the hill, a nice loop for an afternoon stroll.

We purchased a small map of the area and set off through the town. In direct contrast with Wells and Wiveliscombe, the town felt devoid of locals, overtaken by tourists and shops to cater for them. Uncomfortable with an apparent falseness to the town, we headed out, following the green lines of the map. Soon we were by an old military churchyard overlooking the sea. We stopped and gazed at the calm waters for a minute, remembering that the sea is never far on the big island of Britain.

We entered the shelter of the woods and left the village behind. A family passed us by, heading for a different path, and we were left alone. We forgot the bustle of the town as we breathed in the freshness of new leaves and dried earth. We climbed gently for a few minutes, the hills beyond hinted at between the branches of the forest. We eventually emerged to find a bench overlooking Minehead and the sea beyond. A couple of horses grazed in a field directly in front of us, unaware of the human activity around them.

We sat down to take in the view. There was no rush to arrive at Giant’s Chair. The family we had encountered at the beginning of our hike passed us by. The father who was storming ahead suddenly came to a halt at the intersection of paths. The mother arrived, silent and unimpressed, while the children trailed behind, arms crossed over their chests and unhappy to be outdoors.

‘Do you need help,’ I asked the man.
He looked at me quizzically. I wanted to laugh at his hesitation. I had clearly just undermined what he considered his manliness.
‘Huh… yeah sure,’ he mumbled glancing briefly at his family.
‘We’re here,’ I pointed out on the map.
‘Yeah, right. It’s fine to go straight, it’ll loop back.’ His eyes were vaguely considering the map, not seeing that to loop back into Dunster you would have to walk quite a bit further away and prolong a walk nobody was enjoying. ‘Thanks,’ he added as if an afterthought and stormed away, his family grudgingly following him.

We lingered for a while, happy not to be part of this family, and sad at the idea that this man was not instilling a joy and curiosity of the outdoors to his children.

We walked on, soon finding our path to the Giant’s Chair. We weren’t even 200 metres above sea level but there was nothing to stop our view from north to south, east to west. The water of the Atlantic merged with the Bristol Channel calmly, the sea a promise of an idyllic summer. Far off, in a haze of blue lay Wales, another land and yet the same. We soon diverted our attention south, where a bench welcomed us and found us cuddling as we forgot the urban world we had come from, gazing at the hills of Exmoor. They rolled out for miles on end, houses, roads, and cars hard to stop in amongst their green.

In spite of our proximity to Dunster, we saw no one of top of that hill. It was only as we began our descent that we met a few dog walkers. Instead of going back through the town, we followed another footpath, losing our ways and finding an exit into a disused quarry turned woodlands by the main coastal road. We just had time for an ice-cream and a cold drink before the parking ticket expired. But it wasn’t time to go home just yet. Instead we crossed Exmoor once more, choosing roads we hadn’t seen, to arrive at Dulverton. Our hunt for a place to eat was unsuccessful but we settled in a pub anyway, sampling the local beer and playing a game of dominoes by the amber of a fire.

Eventually we had to leave, another parking ticket was expiring and it was time to go home. We avoided the motorways as much as possible, navigating a mixture of A roads and B roads, climbing over the Mendips and down again as we rode into Bristol. The roads were familiar but slightly different from having been gone from our sight for a couple of days.

Chew Magna Lake

December


Chew Magna Lake – 10 miles
I looked at the sign, looked at the trail, and made a step froward. But no, I was on foot and twenty miles was just too much for one afternoon. But I would have my bike again soon and then I would be able to visit the lake.

January, February, March


I bent over the map from Sustrans and followed cycle route three with my finger, all the way to Chew Magna Lake. Only ten miles from home. On my next day off, I would go. But nothing happened.

April


Do you want to cycle to Chew Magna Lake?
Sure
I received the text with a smile on my face. I was finally going to make it to the lake I’d been dreaming about for so long.

On the first proper day of sunshine, we wheeled our bikes outside of Bristol, following the signs from Sustrans. Country roads wound their way between hedges, inclines dropping down to quiet villages where the occasional car would pass by. The trees were still bare but buds had began to appear and as the sun warmed the earth it felt like winter was finally at an end.

We arrived at the lake happy for a ride out of town. We parked the bikes and went to explore the trails around the water on foot. Streams and pools encircled the footpath providing freshness in this unexpected warm day. We followed the bittern trail, stopping at a viewing point to admire the view and listen to nature around us. There were bird calls we couldn’t identify, the gentle swaying of long grass, and in my imagination the fishing lines of fishermen in the small boats we could see.

We eventually walked away, back to the bicycle for a bite to eat. Our lunch over, we lingered by the lake, the sun warming our skin. I could feel it burn my skin but couldn’t find the resolve to cover my skin. After month of long sleeves and coat, this felt too good to pass.

The afternoon was drawing to a close and my friend had to get back to Bristol. So we unlocked the bicycles and rode away, following another route from Sustrans, another entry into the city, another landscape.

Wales Border Walk: Chepstow to Monmouth

I can’t remember how it began. There were long-distance walks enjoyed and leaving me craving for more. There were people writing about walking the South West Coast Path in stages. There was Quintin Lake taking photos of the whole British coastline. And there was the move to Bristol right next to Wales. This somehow made me yearn to walk the Wales Coast Path. So when I realised I had a whole week-end off at the start of February, it felt natural to embark on the first walk around Wales.

I popped in Stanfords to get a book about it. There were publications about various stages of the walk and a chunky Cicerone guide. I picked the latter up before anyone else could snatch it and was about to pay when another book caught my eye. ‘Offa’s Dyke Path‘ I whispered, reading the title. Instinctively my hand went up and took the book off the shelve. I had heard of this walk, friends and vague acquaintances had followed it. I remembered it involved the Welsh border. So what if I walked the entire Wales Border? After all, this was only adding a 177 miles to my journey around Wales, and it would make a nice loop. Not thinking any further, I went to counter and paid for both items.

But now had a dilemma: which path would I follow first? I knew I was going to start in Chepstow. But would I veer north or west? I thought about tossing a coin or rolling a dice. Instead I checked the weather forecast. North was predicted to be marginally better. So that was it, Offa’s Dyke Path would be the start of my journey around Wales.

On Friday night, I packed my bag, and went to sleep eager for the hours to tick away. Six o’clock came, my alarm rang and I was out of the house to catch a bus. There was no traffic at this hour and the bus soon arrived in Chepstow. The sun had risen by then and I easily made my way out-of-town, half following the Wales Coast Path signs, half following Google Maps. I stopped on a bridge overlooking an A-road but didn’t linger to watch cars go by. Daylights hours were still scarce and I wanted to leave the urban environment. I spotted the familiar acorn of National Trails and followed it through kissing gates and fields.

The grass was cracking under foot, still trapped in a layer of frost. I thought of the camp I would have to make that night and shivered. I had my winter equipment with me, but I knew it would still be a cold night. But now was not the time to think about it, so I brushed the thought aside and walked on. The Severn estuary rolled away to the east with views of England on the other side. But I was more interested in what was going on to the west. I had reached Wintour’s Leap. Perched high in the landscape I overlooked the Wye gorge as the river made its final dash for the sea. A thin layer of mist hung low over the valley as if the landscape was not quite awake yet.

Buildings and tarmac disappeared as I made a turn into the woods. I remained below the dyke for a while and marvelled at the determination and manpower it must have taken to built it. And yet there are no contemporary accounts mentioning it. So its origin and purpose are still enigmatic today but it is generally agreed that Offa, King of Mercia from 757 to 796 ordered its construction. This earthwork formed the boundary between Mercia and the Kingdom of Powys. Even the full length of the dyke is debated. But what is certain is that it marked and still marks the landscape of the borderlands. More than a millennium later, it still passes within a few miles of the current England-Wales border.

I reached the Devil’s Pulpit overlooking Tintern’s Abbey. Legends has it that the Devil preached on the jetting stone to tempt the monks of the abbey. His efforts were wasted as Tintern Abbey became one of the most prosperous in Wales.

‘Admiring the view,’ I heard a man ask me.
‘Yes. It’s quite something,’ I replied. Two men had arrived from the opposite direction.
‘Are you going far,’ the older man enquired upon spotting my bag on the floor.
‘Monmouth. I’m walking Offa’s Dyke Path.’
‘Us too. We started down there,’ the younger man commented as he pointed to Tintern. ‘We’re going to Chepstow.’
I reassured them that the walk was going to be just as good and with a quite a bit of downhill for them. They couldn’t promise the same for me.
I waved them off as they continued on their way and strapped my bag to my back. There were still many miles to go.

I passed a few more groups of people, all wishing me well on my journey, and reached a crossroad. I could go straight ahead across to the Hudnalls or visit Brockweir and continue along the river Wye. I looked at the hills ahead and began walking towards them but soon I backtracked and descended to the river. I had never seen the river Wye but I had heard of it many times. I had read about people walking alongside it and people kayaking on its water. And I wanted to see it. The hills would have to wait.

I stopped for lunch in the village by the Wye. Its water was running fast and I didn’t fancy trying to paddle upstream. I thought about having a nap before walking on but the weather was too cold. I needed to move to keep warm. So I went on along the river, watching its murky water flow in the opposite direction.

I rejoined the main route at Bigsweir Bridge, climbing back to the top of the landscape, and into the woods. It wasn’t so cold under the canopy of trees so when I got hungry again, I stopped to brew a cup of tea. As I sat on a fallen tree, I realised I had not seen another human figure for a while, nor could I hear the sound of traffic or planes. There may have been human activity a few miles from me, but as far as I was concerned I was on my own in the forest. I smiled and enjoyed that cup of tea all the more.

I checked the maps and instructions and realised I wasn’t too far from Redbrook. I hadn’t expected to walk that far but the cold had powered me on with shorter breaks than usual. Maybe I could make it all the way to Monmouth? I brushed the idea aside. I wasn’t that far but there were a lot of ups and downs and I was beginning to feel the weight of the bag on my shoulder.

I packed my stove and walked on under the trees, occasionally crossing a muddy clearing. The brown and green of the ground were highlighted from the rain of the previous week, marking a sharp contrast against the bare canopy over my head. As I reached Highbury Wood, I found the whole of my body and brain drifting into the rhythm of my steps. The bag felt heavier than at the beginning of the walk and I couldn’t find a position that would relieve the pain. There were many spots that called me to stop and set up camp for the night, but it was cold and there were still another couple of hours of daylight. So I walked on, my thoughts obliterated by the pain.

Perched high in the woods, I was faced with a steep descent into Redbrook. Staying upright took all of my concentration, making me forget for a moment the load on my back. I arrived in the village and wondered what to do. There was a welcoming pub just around the corner from the path. A pub with accommodation. I looked at it longingly, a strange figure on the pavement by a park full of children. In the end, I walked away. I had not come to sleep in a bed in Wales. Monmouth was now just under four miles away. I knew that if I reached it I wouldn’t be able to carry on the following day. The guide was quite clear about the scarcity of transport between Monmouth and Haye-On-Wye (which was just a little too far for another day’s walk). This left me with two options: find a spot to spot between Redbrook and Monmouth or walk all the way to Monmouth and catch a bus home. Not wanting to bargain with buses, I checked timetables on my phone. As long as I kept walking there was a good chance I could catch the last bus to Abergavenny and from there hop on a train.

Invigorated by the idea of making it to Monmouth, I found a new spring in my steps. I left Redbrook via a narrow farm path surrounded by fields. I could see further than I had been able to most of the day. A few cars passed me by, people busy gathering chickens and horses waved at me, and a few dog walkers shared an amicable greeting with me. I was not part of their life but I was not an unusual sight either and in that moment I felt part of the general landscape.

The sun began to set, slowly draining the world from its colours. But the progress was slow and I could still see where I was going. I reached the Roundhouse on the Kymin Hill overlooking Monmouth. The buildings were impressive but I didn’t spare much time for them. Not far in the distance, a few miles below me, lay Monmouth illuminated like a starry night on the ground. And further still, I could just make out the contours of the Brecon Beacons. I gazed at them longingly. Ever since I had known I was going to move to Bristol, I have been lurking at the Brecon Beacons, desperately waiting for the weather to change so I would have time to explore them. The light was rapidly fading and I had a bus to catch. So I tore myself away from the sight and walked on. It was all downhill from there and I found myself almost giggling as I half walked, half slid on a muddy woodland path.

I reached a road, and found myself standing by Monmouth sign. I had made it. I had passed a pub a few metres ago and doubtless there would be more in town. And in that moment there was nothing more I wanted but to sit in one with a well-earn pint of ale. I checked my watch to see if I had time. I didn’t. In fact, I had to hurry to the bus station if I didn’t want to miss the bus. I drank some water, pretending this was an ale and walked on to the station. The bus pulled in as I arrived. I hopped in, the sole passenger at this time of day, and the driver took me straight to Abergavenny station where I caught a train home.

Stockwood Open Space Nature Reserve

What images does Stockwood Open Space conjure up in your mind?

Trail Guide, Stockwood Open Space, Avon Wildlife Trust 1984

Unless you live in South Bristol, the images are probably a blur of green field, maybe some trees and a pond of some sort. That would be better than the picture I had of it a couple of months ago when I first arrived in Bristol. My new home was filled with the bare essentials and I was free to explore. So I set off on foot to find out what my local area contained. Google Maps didn’t look promising. There was a big green space but it was a golf course. The rest was a mix of dull greys. At least it’s what I could see without the satellite imagery. I didn’t have access to those in what was then an Internet free house.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-15-54-38-copy

Trail Guide, Stockwood Open Space, Avon Wildlife Trust 1984

I tucked my phone in my pocket and walked out of my front door, my sole focus being on walking away from the busy A4 connecting Bristol to Bath. I meandered in narrowing streets and soon found myself in Scotland Road. A sign declared it was flooded but I ignored it, ducking under the barrier. The last houses of the city disappeared behind me, leaving their space to trees, shrubs, and fields. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. There was the distant roar of the A4 but everything else was telling me I was in the British countryside I had come to know. Bewildered, I went on, eager to see where the road would lead and if the trees on my right would offer an opening for me to see what lay behind them because as far as Google was concerned the answer was ‘nothing’. But soon I reached the flooded area and unless I was up for a paddle, I couldn’t walk on. So I turned back. By this time the sun was already setting and I resolved to go back to the blank space on the map the following day.

I was standing at the edge of Stockwood Road, the blank space spread out before me. I had expected a disused industrial estate of sorts, or a wasteland forgotten by the people, but not what I saw. There were trees lining a tarmac path and nature as far as my eye could see. I stepped in and noticed a sign. I had entered the Stockwood Open Space Nature Reserve. I could hardly believe my luck.  I left the sign behind and set out to explore what would undoubtedly become my new nature patch.

I followed the path and was led back home with a smile on my face. I had seen the remains of ancient woodlands, green fields, ponds, and an orchard full of apple trees. I knew I had only glimpsed what was contained in this open space. There was more to discover but my new job was starting the following day, my house mate would arrive a couple of days later and soon Christmas would take over everything. So it wasn’t until a couple of weeks into January that I had the opportunity to go back to spend a morning wandering away from the tarmac. By this time, I had done a bit of research and had even joined the Friends of Stockwood Open Space.

I came into the area via the Hungerford Road Open Space. A fenced-ringed path covered in wet crushed leaves separates the two spaces. It opened at the cart pond meadow where I found a hidden stone lined pond. The bare trees laid their branches over the water, sheltering it from the golden rays of sunlight. I snapped a photo. A dog arrived, his head already bent down to drink. I didn’t move and watched him for a while as he took a few strides into the pond. Refreshed, he lifted his head and saw me, a startled expression in his eyes before he began to bark in sheer surprise at finding an unknown human being in what clearly was his pond. I moved away and back into the sun-drenched field.

I crossed over to the dipping pond meadow and followed a slippery path along the water’s edge. The light was muted and the smell of wet earth invaded my lungs. I felt like I had entered a secret garden only accessible when water levels were low. I crouched down, watching the shimmering reflections of bare branches on the calm surface of the pond. A few people walked in the distance on the tarmac path but they didn’t see me. As my legs began to ache, I left my spot and went over a bridge made of two heavy wooden planks leading me into a bush. A narrow corridor had been cleared in the hedgerow, opening into a wide playing field. The light almost blinded me as I stepped away from the dipping pond.

Dog walkers were throwing tennis balls far and wide to the sheer delights of dogs. I ignored the frenzy of activity and made straight for the meadow opposite. Grass blades were long, welcoming thistles and newly planted trees still encased in plastic tubes. I wondered what they were. They were still too low to cover the view but eventually they would join the older trees I could see up the hill. I climbed up, carefully avoiding the few patches of ice the sun hadn’t yet melted, and found myself in a small woodland. It reminded me of the woodlands near Hertford that had once been my home for a night. I sat by a fallen tree and closed my eyes, remembering the peace I had found in that secluded place just outside of London. A similar feeling was growing in me here. Sheltered by the trees, I could barely distinguish the traffic of the A4 any longer. Instead there was the gentle crackling of dry leaves dancing on the floor, and the clashing of bare wood against one another above my head.

Growing cold, I moved away from the embrace of the forest and descended onto the playing fields once more. The pungent smell of rotten apples announced its presence before I could see any of it. Back in December, the apples had seemed like Christmas baubles on the trees. There were now more of them on the ground and as the ice covering them had melted, they were releasing their sweet decaying fragrance in the air and for once I wasn’t tempted to bite into a fruit.

I walked away heading for Ilsyngrove wood. I climbed up through the trees, emerging into the Coots meadow. Facing me was a row of houses, the border of the open space clearly defined by their bricks. I envied the inhabitants for having this meadow right on their doorsteps and I hoped they knew how lucky they were. I turned around to descend into the wood once more but was stopped short. I was at the highest point of the Open Space and I could see for miles. There were hills and fields stretched out in shades of yellow and brown, blurring into the distance. I wondered where Bristol and Bath had gone for a moment. Having lived in London for so long, I wasn’t used at seeing unbuilt land from any vantage point in a city. And then, I remembered this was one of the reasons for the move. There were limits to Bristol, limits I could reach by foot or bicycle. The countryside was there for me to explore under my own steam. I didn’t need a train or a bus journey to reach it.

Walking through Ilsyngrove I barely noticed the ancient trees around me. My head was filled with the vision of the hills outside of Bristol and dreams of future wanderings on their footpaths and surrounding roads. Not looking where I walked, I eventually emerged onto the tarmac path and followed it home. Stockwood Open Space was no longer a dull colour on Google Maps. It was a green space with wide open areas interspersed with ponds, hedgerows, and woods. But more than that it was now mine. I had seen its colours under the sun, I had smelled its earth, I had touched its trees, I had heard its birds, I had tasted its air. The courtship had begun and I can’t wait to go back to it over and over again to witness it grow and die throughout the seasons.