Solvitur ambulando – It is solved by walking – April 2022
9th March – no clouds, trouble out east. By Maxim Griffin.
Out in the big fields to the west – no plan or agenda, just miles – miles will do. The evenings are drawing out – tuning into the birdsong – call and response – the hedges are getting busy – seven magpies high in a hawthorn, rattling away – seven magpies – seven for a secret, depending on the version – seven for the devil, if you are local.
The paths have begun to dry out – it’s been a fine day, fine enough to not care for a coat – boots, not wellies – daffodils, snowdrops, young leaves on the point of returning – there’s been washing out on the lines and someone nearby is mowing grass – a petrol hum from beyond the lime green privet. Keep heading west on the edge of the oilseed – give it a couple of weeks and the yellow will be brighter than the sun – those yellow fields under a blue sky – summer calling.
The old rucksack fell to pieces, the new one is packed – a couple of extra layers, a headtorch for later – a bite to eat, water – a map for map’s sake, not necessary but nice to have – the buckles make no sound – on – quietly – jackdaws.
A spread of bluebells under a birch tree shimmer in the breeze – a pair of Typhoons pass low, heading toward Coningsby – afterburners on, shaking the earth as they head in to land – evening sun on fuel tanks and rockets – a pulse of starlings scatters and reforms out of one hedgerow and into another. On – downhill to where the shadows stretch – two paths meet in the ripple of the valley – up – knee high stalks. On – pebbles and flints – a helicopter goes north to south – red, blue and white – one of those ones that goes first to Norwich then out to Triton Knoll across the horizon.
Pause – seven miles before nightfall ought to do it – keep the limbs rolling – the thin way lies ahead, it’s easy going, comfortable open country – big fields in each direction, as close as we get to prairie – soon the crops will be up enough to read the tracking of the wind – over the hedge was once a place.
Older maps indicate the presence of an iron age encampment – gothic script among broad contours – there’s no trace of it on newer editions – the path still goes right by it, and the chalk pits remain, just – the Ordnance Survey maps from the early 1900s are ferociously detailed and very accurate – the word encampment suggests something temporary. The name of the hill remains and is still tied to the near farm – Orgarth – suggests something more established – garth is old – Norse – somewhere enclosed – strange – there was a moment when the memory of this encampment fell from the cartographer’s thoughts – another time – little Viking children playing, chasing pigs under the evening sun.
Squint – the light over the west is turning – a trace of chill to the air – pick up the pace – the boots are new – not rubbing but not fully broken in either – on – uphill to a gap in the hedge – a robin pauses – the stile provides somewhere to lean – an ordinary cheese sandwich, a moment’s reflection. Check the news – ominous out east, getting worse – perhaps, by the time this is published it will be settled – unlikely but one can hope – another ordinary cheese sandwich – leave a crust for the robin – on.
Cross the road – there’s no one about – the path is downhill, no sign but this is the way – one of those hidden valleys, keeps itself to itself. Some colour to the sky now – you could be at any point in the last hundred years – the big voice of a small dog – a farm, a church – St Peter’s – tiny, dormant – daffodils by the porch – on – downhill all the way – a tight path between hedge and fence – a stream and a footbridge – on – steep, up – a rough way on chalk and roots – big woods – buds but no leaves yet on – along the high hedge – birdsong. There’s a building in the valley – large – empty – no way down to it – a bright gable end with glassless windows – Georgian maybe, obviously haunted – on the older map but disappears mid-century – nameless, according to Google maps but what do they know?
The bridleway is lumpy, hard on the feet – steep – no footprints – no litter – a little hollow leads down to what looks to be a badger sett – best not bother them – the way is up. Another jet rumbles overhead – there’s a police car pulled up where the way meets the road – probably waiting on speeders, the road can be a rat run after dark – an awkward exchange of good evenings – no matter – he’s off a minute later with a cheery wave – you know where you are with a cheery wave.
Keep going – it’s a trudge but the miles count – you could pour down the slope to Tetford – the pub is good – or see what’s going on at Oxcombe – the church is good – strange and tiny, slightly other. On – tarmac – along the road north – ancient track – a trig point in the bush – it’ll be the last of the sun soon – already the terminator is arriving across the sea – still clear – stars soon – the shadow of earth coming on steady 500 metres a second – best get a shift on. Another valley and across that, plains to Lincoln – yellow light turning red – a pair of skin tight cyclists make the road crackle, zooming south – one house, black crow – a tree whittled to kindling – a good moon beginning to brighten.
Keep going – the dark is rising – a bank of luminous cloud builds beyond the city – there’s no time to detour to the Green Man – shame, a hot meal would be welcome and it’s been an age since a pub tea.
Head torch on, not to see, but to be seen – the way cuts back into the fields in less than a mile – carefully, quietly, evening chorus on – the first glimmers of starlight approach – lights on the road – car – police car – he slows – thumbs up, cheery wave.