If you go down to the woods today . . .

Yesterday I moped around and did nothing particularly constructive. Today I decide it’s going to be different. Wake up definitively at about 9.50 which is entirely the result of taking antihistamines. Try to catch the vestiges of the dream I was having and realise it is so weird I shouldn’t have bothered. That’s another antihistamine effect.

So, at some point when I was awake during the night, I decided to go back to Philipshill Wood, which I visited a couple of weeks ago. It belongs to the Woodland Trust. At the time I was suffering a camera malfunction (flat batteries) so I didn’t get photos of all the primroses, violets and wood sorrel that were out. Time to try again.

Get to Chorleywood station, get out, walk straight into a fancy French market. Normally speaking wild horses wouldn’t keep me from a fancy French market (I have a thing about soap in multiple flavours, as you’ll know if you’ve been following my blogs a while), but 1. I have no money and 2. I don’t want to carry it all the way. Wherever all the way might be. I am in denial about the faint possibility of a hike.

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Trudge up the hill and get to Old Shire Lane. View is wonderful. Notice with some excitement an arum lily growing in the hedge. These can be hard to spot, the flowers being green, except in the autumn when they have bright red berries. My heart jumps into my mouth as a small ginger animal bounces out of the hedgerow at me, but it’s only a small and pretty cat wearing a fetching pink collar.

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Reach the start of Philipshill Wood. This is owned by the Woodland Trust. It’s fabulous. The first bit is relatively new planting (it is classified as ancient woodland but you can see this is fairly new because the trees are in rows) and is absolutely carpeted with bluebells. Even I can smell them. A bit like hyacinths, which they are related to, but with something green and woody in there too. Also, close inspection reveals they are English bluebells (long tight narrow flower) not continental bluebells (more open bell-shaped flower). The effect of thousands and thousands of them is to produce a mist a foot off the ground, quite dizzying.

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Now, the main tracks through this woodland run east to west but I’m following the path less taken, which goes north to south. I’m heading for the clearing at the bottom of the hill where there was loads of wood sorrell and primoses a couple of weeks back. It’s the most beautiful walk. At one point, my path goes along a belt of pine trees and the scent of them in the sun is indescribably lovely. Two breaths of it and the world is a better place. The woodland canopy is full of birds singing their heads off, but of course I can’t see them, they are about fifty feet above my head. Keep on going downhill and come to a patch where there are little round pine cones on the path. If you’ve ever trodden on a marble, you’ll get the picture. I say ‘oops’ a couple of times.

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Get to the bottom where about five paths meet. There are still primroses, but the wood sorrel flowers have gone, there are just a few leaves left. We’re now getting things like enchanters nightshade, which along with dog’s mercury has a wonderful name but is not much to look at. Turn left along the path and walk along, observing a thatched roof to my right. There is a building marked on the map and I’m very curious as to what it is, but there’s a thicket between me and it and it’s none of my business anyway so I keep going. See what looks like an orange tip butterfly but tell myself I’m imagining a more interesting existence for a cabbage white. A great tit is watching me from a tree and then flies off, with another great tit following. Things tend to be in pairs at this time of year.

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Reach the edge of the wood and get out map. I know I wasn’t planning a hike as such, but . . . it’s beautiful weather, and a shame to miss it, and I’m enjoying myself. Plan out a route that will take me over a motorway, passing through a couple more woods. I’m back on Old Shire Lane, which is clearly an ancient path, the hedges are full of different plants. Stop to photograph the first red campion of the year, and a second later an orange tip butterfly lands on it and in my excitement my finger wobbles off the shutter button and I miss it. Ah well, there’ll be others. Get to where I want to turn off and go across a field and it has horses in it. Nice horses: they ignore me. It’s only a couple of hundred metres anyway. Cross a road, go across another field and into a new wood. Bottom Wood. It’s heard all the jokes, thank you.

IMG_3598 IMG_3601Well, Bottom Wood is gorgeous. More bluebells than ever and not another person in sight. I follow a meandering path downhill, stopping to take more photos (you can’t have too many photos of bluebells) and also find quite a lot of lady’s mantle. I come to the edge of the wood and an open field. There’s a little arrow pointing me helpfully across and the map says go diagonally across so I do this. There’s no discernable path, just grass and buttercups and a view of the M25.

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At the other side of the field I walk down the edge of a belt of woodland to a bridge over the motorway and turn right through another belt of woodland with – you’ve guessed it – bluebells in. This one is Ladywalk Wood. Go down to the farm and see something rather surprising. A mallard flies in and perches on the apex of a roof near me.

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Mallard, perch? Mallards haven’t got anything to perch with, have they? It’s quacking its head off too. I leave it and quack on. I mean crack on. The weather has not stayed sunny and it’s starting to spit with rain. I observe a cute little pied wagtail perched on a dungheap and wonder if it thinks it’s a metaphor for something.

Emerge on main road, just 100m from a bus stop. There is a bus due in 16 minutes although it’s Sunday. This makes me very happy as I’m cold, my foot is hurting and I didn’t bring food or drink out with me as I didn’t intend to go for a hike.

Just shows what you can do if you let your subconscious loose, eh?