This morning we wandered through the Lower Hangings in the wood I grew up exploring, walking in, building jumps in. The original paths are there and apart from the aggressive signage mission that the National Trust has embarked on ("Footpath" "The Hertfordshire Way" "Ridgeway" "Ashridge Walk" etc), very little has changed. It's incredibly peaceful, as trite as that may appear. There is the sound of birdsong and the sound of one's feet on the fallen leaves, and that's about it. Standing in King's field, admiring his black-faced sheep, I realized that there is constant movement and loud noises in the city, mostly man-made. This hasn't just dawned on me but I understand more now, having lived in a city for so many years, what my father meant about city dwellers being constantly agitated, "like rats in a cage," he'd say, which is a little unfair. It is almost impossible not to breathe deeper and feel more contented, deep down in what I'd like to call my soul (and the Maharishi would call "a cellular level" or something much cleverer) when in the heart of a sunny wood.
Looking towards Aldbury
Mr King's black-faced sheep
We had the enormous good fortune of hitting the large fields to the west of the village, just as the racehorses were doing their morning gallop. My mother's terrier isn't the most obedient of animals and so hurriedly put him on a lead as soon as I realize we'd be in the thick of it. A concerned owner in a smart blue land rover whizzed towards us over the stubble and said very politely, "Oh hullo, I'm not sure if you realize that some racehorses are coming through here in a few moments." He smiled so kindly, so apologetically really. "Oh yes, I'm quite prepared. Look, I've reined in my beast" I said. Tiny looked appropriately nonchalant. (Why isn't that dogs can't make the right face at the right time?) "Good job" said the nice man. "I am awfully sorry" I said. "I didn't mean to worry you." Sure enough, three minutes later, the horses came pounding by -- three followed by two. So lovely on a chilly morning. One of the jockeys waved and shouted "Morning." "Morning" I shouted back, feeling quite jolly.