22 June 2013
Not many people like going to the dentist, especially not for a filling but that was where I was headed on Monday morning bright and early, well earlyish. When I got up I wasn’t exactly impressed to see rain but, by the time I left, it had stopped. Unfortunately, as the first part of my walk was through Hum Hole where all the trees were slowly relieving themselves of the left over rain water, I still got wet.
The signs at the edge of the path warn that the surface is slippery when wet so I took extra care going down the steep slope and then up the other side. As it happened, it wasn’t slippery at all and I managed to get to the top again without falling or making an idiot of myself. Then it was along the leaf mould covered trail where everything sparkled and dripped, mostly on me. Luckily I’d worn a hat and had the hood of my showerproof mac pulled up so, apart from the odd drip on my glasses, it wasn’t too much of a problem.
The rain held off as I walked along the winding road to Chalk Hill and down through the tunnel of dripping trees towards West End Village. The clouds over the airport looked water laden though and I was glad I didn’t have too much further to walk. This didn’t stop me standing gawping at the pretty thatched cottage at the bottom of course. It may sound a touch obsessive but I do love a nice thatched cottage and this one always sets my house envy off.
A little further on there was another stop to take pictures of a huge, rather overblown clematis. The wet flowers were bigger than roses, the largest I’ve ever seen. From house envy to plant envy in a few steps. Then I was at the door to the dentist and walking in the rain, no matter how hard it got, seemed like a better prospect than what was coming next.
Don’t get me wrong, my dentist is really nice, the building is attractive and comfortable, there’s even a stained glass window in the door which always makes me smile (admittedly more so on the way out). Even so, there is something about a visit to the dentist that fills me full of dread, especially when I know I’m having treatment. Also, why do they always ask you a question when they are up to the elbows in your mouth?
An hour later, give or take, I was paying (the most painful part of the whole process) and making my next check up appointment. My mouth was numb from the injection so smiling was out of the question unless I wanted to look like a stroke victim, but my cracked tooth was all fixed and the rest of my teeth were given the all clear. It was drizzling when I walked outside but nothing too bad so I thought I might investigate a little community garden I’d spotted on the way.
It felt as if this interesting looking garden and what might be a path had appeared overnight. This has been my dentist for decades and I’ve walked and driven along this same stretch of road countless times without noticing it before. It just goes to show there is always something new to see even in the most familiar places. As soon as I could I crossed the road to take a closer look.
There was a path leading off into the trees but, before I explored it I wanted to take a look at the garden. It was smaller than it looked from the other side of the road, just a thin strip of grass, a path, some benches, trees and a few small shrubs. Flower wise it was fairly sedate, just some roses bedraggled by the shower that had now eased off and a few philadelphus flowers that unaccountably didn’t seem to have any scent. Perhaps the anaesthetic in my mouth was stopping my nose working or it could have been the rain. Still, I accidentally captured what I think was an ichneumon wasp on one of the roses. Then again it could have been a gnat.
Towards the end of the path there was a nice little memorial to Dr Richard St Barbe Baker, world renowned forester, author and environmental activist who was born in the village of West End in 1889. St Barbie Baker made a huge contribution to world wide reforestation and founded Men of the Trees, a group who continue to carry out international reforestation to this day. Obviously a man after my own heart! The Granite memorial was erected in 2003 and is topped by a beautiful bronze bas relief of the man himself sculpted by Jill Tweed.
Feeling quite hopeful I made my way back to the path leading off into the woods. Because I didn’t know it was there before I set off I hadn’t had a chance to check out the satelite maps but I had an idea it might lead out onto Barbe Baker Avenue. From there I could turn and walk back home. At the top of the steps I was met with three paths all leading in different directions. A look at WalkJogRun would, have been useful round about then but with rain still dripping from the trees I didn’t think it wise. In fact the rain was dripping quite fiercely so I quickly chose the middle path as a nod to the Buddhist teaching that the middle path is the path of wisdom and hurried into the celaring ahead.
This effort to get away from dripping trees wasn’t very successful. It turned out the trees wern’t dripping because it had been raining and they were wet, they were dripping because it was now pouring down. The clearing was wetter than the woods. My first instinct was to turn back to the relative shelter of the trees but then I caught sight of something that made me ignore the rain.
At the top of a grassy slope there was a beacon. A handy sign on the edge of the trees told me this area was called Hatch Grange and the beacon was used in 1988 to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the sighting of the Spanish Armada. It was originally lit in Telegraph Woods a short way off but moved to this spot afterwards. Despite the downpour I climbed the hill for a closer look. Interesting as it was, the rain made this all rather unpleasant.
It was obvious there was a large area of park and wood to be explored and I was itching to do so. If it hadn’t been raining so hard I might have carried on walking to wherever it ended up but the rain was beginning to soak through my trousers and my thin mac in the few minutes I’d been out of the cover of the trees. The mac is showerproof and has proved itself in quite a bit of rain recently but this wasn’t a shower by any stretch of the imagination. If I carried on it would be likely to make it through to my underwear before much longer.
Even back in the trees it couldn’t be called dry and any thought of sheltering until the rain passed was quickly forgotten. On the way back to the garden and the road I noticed a little teepee like the ones I’ve seen in the New Forest in the past. Obviously I’d missed it going the other way. What these are for and who makes them is a mystery but I quite like them.
Thinking I’d be better keeping to the dripping trees for as long as possible I didn’t actually return to the garden. Instead I took the path through the trees that seemed to lead in the direction I wanted to go. A tiny part of me hoped the rain would stop and I’d be able to explore further. Another part wondered if this was a mistake and the path wouldn’t lead where I thought at all and I’d get lost. Both parts were wrong. Before long I came to a large wrought iron gate with the road on the other side. If anything the rain away from the shelter of the trees was worse,
It was time to concede defeat, cross the road again and wait in the handy bus shelter until either the rain stopped or a bus came. As it turned out, a bus arrived about ten minutes later while the rain was still going strong. At least I have a free bus pass and I spent a good part of the trip looking at maps to see just what I’d missed back in the woods in West End. There is more to explore than I thought and I will certainly be going back when the weather is better.