The Forbidden Wood in Winter


A longer walk today,  I decide as I near the wood (I will be out for several hours later – hair dresser) and George has been good, having chosen to diverge away from the path and start sniffing as Misty approached (despite an extended period of parallel walking they had a bit of a barney some months age and I have been working on establishing this response ever since)

It is damp and foggy – a real finger freezer of a day – decidedly gloomy but not without some hope of improving later.  At least it is not raining – a blessing in itself in view of recent torrents!

The loop through the woods that I want to take has, for the last few years been heavily signed with .. ‘Keep Out’ warnings that have been studiously ignored by most of the local people who have walked and ridden through them for generations.  I have done so myself for some 30 years.

I plunge down the steep slope into the enveloping mist.  Here the dead bracken and grasses, which are shaded from pale buffs to rich tans, make an almost perfect camouflage for Arnie and George.  As I drop ever deeper in amongst the ancient firs the surroundings become increasingly gloomy.  The bare trunks, diminishing with distance before eventually becoming engulfed by the ravening maws of the mist.  Now I begin to question my decision to leave the main path.  The mop-heads of dead grass seem to be whispering a warning of impending doom that is echoed soundlessly by the silently waiting wood.

Underfoot the path has been slickened in places by water running from the ruts and hollows by which it is repeatedly dented, the recent rains having done nothing to improve walking conditions.  Poisonous green mosses and liverwort stand out in sharp relief against the dun background of fading grasses and pine needles

The path is now rising slowly but steadily and suddenly the boys are alert!  The surroundings, which have already slightly unnerved me, immediately assume a menacing quality.  As the boys plunge forward, pulling hard on their leads I have no inclination to restrain or discipline them – I am just grateful for their energy which provides welcome assistance in ascending the hill as speedily as possible.  In the recesses of my mind I am aware that this will significantly undermine the hard-won progress in Arnie’s training but my main thought is to regain the main path as quickly as possible.

Five minutes later and I can see the gate – a dark grid-like shadow in the gloom – and seconds after I am ducking under the fence and back on to the bridleway.  So what was all that about, I ponder?  With the trees no longer meeting overhead I can see a hint of brightness in the sky – and perhaps even a promise of some sun later?  The dogs are now calm and wandering along in a generally homeward direction, content again to sniff and snuffle their way forward as I follow happily behind.  Probably it was just an unseen fox that had attracted their attention – funny how the mind can play tricks. I wonder how much the knowledge that the woods are forbidden had played on my subconscious?

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