It’s the sort of spring weather we should have had a month ago and I want to be out there with it.
My dodgy foot means I have to wear my brand new Brooks trainers that cost £££.
Meet my friend Wossname at Loughton station and we walk up the road to the start of the forest (this is Epping Forest), and take the first mudrisk of the day by dodging along a woodland track that avoids walking up 200m of dull road and a steep hill. Said woodland track is of course muddy, but it does have useful holly thickets to hang on to if you want to make sure you don’t slide into the mud and change the colour of your new trainers irrevocably.
Just let me run that past you again since it’s Sunday morning and you probably haven’t had your coffee yet ‘ . . . useful holly thickets to hang on to’. Yes, quite.
So, we walk along, revelling in the clear blue scented air, the leaves just emerging from the buds, the sound of birdsong.
There is a lot of this, although we see very few birds. They don’t really need to come down to ground level, having trees to sit in and watch you from. The Fast Cyclists are out in force, as are the Equestrians.
We take the turning up to High Beech, because as usual our goal is the Tea Hut. There’s huge excitement when we spy a peacock butterfly and Wossname actually pins it down (not literally, no need to write to the RSPC Butterflies) so we can take a photo.
This requires some concentration owing to the lack of viewfinders on our cameras and the fact that we are both zooming. We say ‘oh goodness’ and ‘deary me’ a bit but manage it. Stomp on up the trail and I insist on having a look at the dragonfly pond. It’s too early for dragons but there are a couple of ducks and I like ducks (you guessed) so we take photos of them. We have a conversation about the springtime activities of ducks that is so coarse I won’t burden you with it.
Gravitate towards the tea hut and get tea and cake. As usual there is a crowd of people around the tea hut. Even in the middle of winter, there’s a crowd. People will do a lot for a bit of battenberg.
I look at the time and it’s 11.07 so quite late enough for lunch. We sit in the sun and admire the view and observe that the bench is completely arsefreezing. I go off to the loo which is scores an 8 out of 10 on the Noisome Public Lavatory scale and come back and we’re off again, heading for the Fantastic View. On the way we get very excited because we see another kind of butterfly.
After a lively debate lasting 20 seconds (Wossname: it’s a tortoiseshell. Ducky: it’s not, it’s a painted lady.’ Wossname ‘no it’s not it’s a comma’. Ducky ‘You could be right’. I’m pleased to say I’ve just checked and she is right).
The fantastic view is always fantastic but it’s even more fantastic today because the air is very clear and lovely.
We stop to admire it and reminisce about the last we admired it, when we had to edge round ankle-deep mud to look at it and nearly fell in. Indeed, the forest has dried out remarkably well, which makes me very happy (ref new trainers). We walk on and come to a tree with about eight comma butterflies fluttering around it, and discuss at some length what they may be feeding on as there aren’t very many flowers about. We haven’t seen any so far.
Leave the forest and walk along a lane past a couple of secluded houses and there are clumps of what Wossname insists are arum lilies and I refuse to believe are arum lilies and then she finds a flower spike and wins the argument and I say well they may be arum lilies but they aren’t wild ones and she’s smirking but I let her get away with it for now. I’m sure when she thinks it over she’ll be ashamed she smirked because she was right and I was wrong.
We cross the M25. It’s pretty busy so we have to run fast and dodge the traffic. (JOKE! There is a bridge.)
Now, here’s where I’ve not been able to do the nice woodland walk for some time because of Mud. I’ve had to talk the path into Upshire that goes along a concrete track. Today however the mud has dried out, so we head up it, with a glorious view to our right, and the less glorious M25 to our left, and turn down a woodland track and emerge at length, crossing a field, on to the road that goes into Upshire.
A few metres along it, we see a brimstone yellow butterfly. Being a brimstone yellow, it does not hang about for us to take a photo but we are still very excited about it.
If you think seeing a butterfly is a weird thing to be excited about, then for you, dear reader, I feel only sorrow.
We walk along a bit until we come to those two indicators of civilisation: a Co-op and a bus. We take the bus into Waltham Abbey and disgrace ourselves in the beergarden at The Sun. It’s all Wossname’s fault. She likes a beer. Well no actually that it’s true, she likes SEVERAL beers and of course I have to keep her company in cider.
After the second beer/cider, we decide scampi and chips is a good idea (funny how two pints makes you think scampi and chips is a good idea. Never a good idea at any other time). After the second pint, I say to Wossname ‘What next? And set out the options:
- Walk round Waltham Abbey and bus to Cheshunt then home?
- Bus to Loughton and look at nature reserve?
- Another pint and a pudding?
Very surprisingly, given her devotion to healthy eating and abstemiousness, she decides syrup sponge and custard with a third pint is a further good idea. I’m flagging a bit by now in the drinking terms and start recounting ‘boat race’ anecdotes from when I was a student a long time ago. We are in the pub garden and our conversation gets so risque that I keep looking around to make sure there are no children in earshot.
No, I’m not going to tell you.
Wossname is avoiding going home because if she does, she will have to clean out the fishtank. This has consequences that I could not possibly have foreseen. After the pudding (we think it’s from M&S because it’s very good) we get the bus (hah! yes! the bus: we don’t walk) back to Loughton and from there walk along to the nature reserve.
I found this on the net the other week. I give Wossname a short lecture on nature reserves that would bore you senseless if I repeated it but she’s in a happy place with three pints and a huge lunch inside her and we cross a playing field, go over a bridge and wander into the reserve. At this time of year it is a grassy field. Or a series thereof. It’s also marshy. I find this out when I put my foot in it. My foot wearing my £££ new trainers.
This does not make me happy.
We walk along and find both violets (white, so I refuse to believe they aren’t feral) and primroses (also with that ‘planted by human hand’ look) and I comment to Wossname (I’m really putting her through it this afternoon and serve her right, the pub may have been my idea but three pints was hers. Well not so much an idea, she just considers three a nice round number and goes ahead) that one of them looks like a false oxlip, a cowslip/primrose hybrid.
That’s TMI innit? OK.
We come out by a rather scifi-looking set of buildings that turn out to have a large gym in them and a car park that has only one way in and out so you have to go right round the edge. Working this out adds a quarter mile to our walk. Round the edge of that and we observe two yoofs riding one red moped over the grass, secure in the knowledge that nobody will catch them.
Guys, should you be reading, you’re a pair of idiots.
We get to the road and I insist on getting the bus back to Loughton station cos I’m knackered and my right foot is wet.
For once, Wossname and I are in agreement about this.
PS: yes, we did have lunch twice. Problem?