Solvitur ambulando – It is solved by walking – June 2022
8th May – blue skies all along the way. By Maxim Griffin.
May – early enough for a Sunday – the deep green is on us – the chlorophyll is way up – uncut grass goes from strength to strength – a thousand gulls sunning themselves – there’s a motor sound from somewhere – a mowing enthusiast. Today is the day De Soto found the Mississippi, today was Robert Johnson’s birthday, today is the day Dennis Waterman dies. May – a gear shift in the year – everything changing, everything in motion.
The swifts aren’t quite back yet – an outrider a couple of days ago, checking the coast is clear, doubled back to report to the main host – a kid out delivering papers, battered neon satchel of Mails and Observers, rides where he pleases in zigzags along the avenue.
On – already the paths are thick with nettles and cow parsley – wet too – the dew has yet to burn off – a soaking from the waist down – refreshing though – a few snags of thorn – flesh wounds at worse – the dog doesn’t mind. Where the blossom was is now a green fortress – prickly and thick but hollow within – a good place to hide away. There was a man who slept in these hollows – died a couple of years back – there’s a ruined red tent of his under the arches of the main tangle – he had a name.
East – motor sound – look – a paraglider – a chute and a massive fan – looks appealing – revving then gliding along west to east, getting lower – another – two in circles. It is an odd mode of transport – not without charm – they are riding the same thermals the gulls ride in on – it looks peaceful from below – they drift off.
Tighter paths and railway lines – an orchard in flower – this will be a good year for apples – a flurry of petals in the air – walking down the tyre gapes of an oilseed expanse, keeping an eye on the ground for finds – a single curl of ring pull – a pipe stem – ants, beetles and snails – a tall way marking post pulses with millions of new born spiders. The track turns to rubble and chalk – there’s a pillbox being devoured by brambles – shocked loopholes staring out towards the sea. The dog jumps down into a little stream and drinks a long draught – she’s a shaggy black beast from far away – we rescued her from a bad end just before Christmas – she’s living the life now – on we go.
There’s a derelict yard being prepared for renovation – pallets of materials, fresh tracks, one of those small diggers – a tiny brick bridge over a ditch – old map says moat but you know what old maps are like. There’s a barn – maybe late Georgian, early Victorian, same as much of this part of the world, not many vernacular buildings from before the mad king – too wet, you see. A young woman in denim jacket steps into the yard from the shadows – she is eating an ice lolly – the good morning that is offered is not met with a reply.
On – there’s a slate great mass building in the sky – 30 miles off to the south west – clear enough here for now. The poppies are coming up – this is the time of year Lincolnshire is divided into broad strokes of colour – yellow, green, red, blue – geometries and abstractions – black line telegraph poles, white crosses for gulls. The gliders are up over Strubby – at the outskirts of Alford what looks like a golf club turns out to be the crematorium.
West now, uphill – an uncertain detour through parkland at Well – the church is one of the best – slightly out of time, slightly out of place – a good place to unfurl and watch – not now though. On – the short, dense woodland with wild garlic and bluebells is a Hockney painting. Days like this are the triumph of spring.
The tarmac vein of the A16 ripples south to north – over, near the other bunker – telephone masts and Roman roads – a mackerel sky forming – those downpours far off are hitting Norfolk now – was that thunder or the rumble of trucks? On – country lanes and high hedges – bright green and dappled light – it’s hard not to be sucked in, to be carried along into the hills on daydreams.
Road walking is good – a kind of shortcut – miles can pass – the ruinous hulk of a dead badger turning in the heat – the dog knows it is bad – flies and maggots gorge themselves – business is booming.
On – the pace slows – a heat haze wobbling the edge of the view – a farm offering glamping opportunities – shepherd huts and yurt, that sort of thing – fun for a night or two – there’s a donkey – an older man pottering in a well-kept garden with a veg patch and an old looking terrier – waves exchanged – they have a steel water bowel by their gate – May she? She may – the terrier barks – Meg drinks another long draught.
Down the lane – a car parked up at the mouth of the bridleway – two women make watercolours on tiny easels, the low hum of popular classics from the stereo – ambient like – good.
Hit the bridleway hard – probably Roman – walk Roman style, pick up speed, pick up a stick – hurl a ball and the dog charges after. Heading north again – a pheasant feather – stick it in the end of your stick and there’s your spear – honey bees going this way and that – the other business of summer is booming – a swing of blue rope hangs under an oak tree – there – listen – a sudden and familiar call – the same pitch as a movie arrow – look – there – they’re here.
Two swifts – then a couple more – high and circling, that screaming song – they sleep on the wing and hardly ever land – 500 miles a day – relentless – too fast to cast shadows – perching on a fence to watch – they’re full tilt and feeding – twenty now, maybe more – more on the way from beyond. A yellow car speeds along the road, music loud and windows open – the driver drinks from a straw and wears a summer dress.