Cows, or are they Bulls? – first published 18 August 2013

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My mid August New Forest walk was turning into a nightmare. Not only was I hot, hungry and thirsty, now I was worried about Commando. He’d sounded so down when he called me and knowing he was almost out of water and lost too made it worse. In truth, neither of us were far from civilisation and would be unlikely to die of hunger and thirst but it did go to show how easy it is to get into trouble out in the forest when you’re not properly prepared.

While Commando was talking to me I’d been walking so, by the time the call ended, I was through the Christmas tree forest and the chance of blackberries had passed. Nagging worries about Commando accompanied me as I walked on. Although I knew he could run the eighteen miles, the heat and the lack of water was a real concern and getting lost could leave him with a long walk back to the car park. Soon I was through the quagmire and back in the field of cows. Maybe it was my imagination but there seemed to be more of them and I was sure they were nearer the path. Quite a few looked up and watched me as I walked by. All those bovine eyes made me nervous. Were they cows or were they bulls? How worried should I be? Then I spotted one, very close to the path, with very full looking udders. Cows then.

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The milk filled udders had me thinking about chocolate milk and that had me wondering idly how easy it would be to milk a cow? What I wouldn’t have given for a nice glass of milk round about then. Further on another cow, slightly further away had a little bird sitting on its back but it didn’t seem to have noticed. I wasn’t sure this one had udders though, in fact, I wasn’t sure it was a cow at all.

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Hurrying on I reached the boggy ground by the trees. There were red dragonflies dancing above the puddles. When I stooped to try to take a photo I could see this was a dragonfly mating ground. I snapped away taking pictures I knew would be mainly rubbish because the lovely red dragonflies would not stay still. These puddles didn’t seem the best of places for them to mate and lay their eggs because they would dry up as soon as it stopped raining along with all the eggs.

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There were no trains going over the bridge this time and I pushed on. Despite Commando saying he was going to be longer than planned I wasn’t so sure. He’d said he had seven miles to go which meant he was well over half way when I spoke to him and at the time I’d only just passed my half way point. It seemed to me I ought to be pushing my pace a bit if I didn’t want to keep him waiting, especially as I’d stopped to take dragonfly photos.

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When I got to Matley Woods I decided to take the path straight through rather than the way I’d come, to save a bit of time. Of course it could mean I ended up going in circles and took even longer but I did it anyway. Some men were walking in front of me. I was glad to overtake them and get away from their inane chatter. They were discussing caravan prices and it sounded like one of those boasty conversations people have each trying to outdo the other. Each was so busy trying to prove how much better their caravan was they weren’t taking any notice of their beautiful surroundings and it seemed a waste of a lovely walk.

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At around about six miles I passed the kissing trees. At least I must be on the right track. Then I spotted something a little odd in the trees beyond, it looked like a red ball in a tree. Curious, I left the safety of the path, thinking as I did that it might not be a good idea. I tramped through the ferns and fallen branches and, when I reached the tree the red ball turned out to be a rather interesting looking fungus.

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It must have been the day for fungi or maybe it was all the rain but beyond the first tree I spotted another with a more familiar growth. This was a shelf fungus, chicken of the woods, a rather pretty mottled orange, set off quite beautifully by the blue green lichen on the trunk and the ever present moss.

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I managed to make it back to the path without incident although, in hindsight, leaving it in the first place was probably not the best of ideas, especially with adders about. When I spotted a teepee like structure in the distance I thought I might have been going in circles and veering off towards the path around the perimeter of the wood. Then I realised it wasn’t a holly tree so it must be another of those curious shelters. How strange! I’ve never seen anything like it before then I see two in one day.

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Soon I was passing caravans and almost back on the moor. There were children playing with the communal tap, spraying each other and laughing. When I’d passed them unscathed, although I might not have minded a little spray with water to cool me, I saw a car parked up at the edge of the path. For a moment I thought I’d somehow found a time wormhole and was back in the days of my childhood but it was just a very well looked after vintage car. My knowledge of cars is limited to say the least so I have no idea of the make but, at risk of showing my age, I remember the days when these were the latest thing in automotive design. Personally I think it looks a lot better than some of the modern ones.

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When I left the campsite I passed an elderly gent walking very slowly with a small dog. Although I was hardly speed walking. I overtook him easily. The dog wasn’t on a lead and he seemed to like my pace much better than his master’s because he began to walk beside me. There have been times when I’ve thought I might like a little dog to walk with me, although, if I’m honest, I’m more of a cat person. I was aware that the dog was getting further and further away from his master which didn’t seem to be a good thing, so I upped my pace in the hope he’d give up. He did drop back a little so he was walking behind me rather than beside me but I could hear his panting so I knew he was still there.

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Eventually, towards the top of the last hill I lost him. It was a relief because I was worried about the elderly man but I missed the company. Then I saw a brightly coloured kite soaring high above the moor and the church spire in the distance. I was almost back at the start. My thoughts returned to Commando, wondering if he was back yet and if he was alright.

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When I got to the car park he was nowhere in sight. I had about a quarter of an hour before he was likely to be back, even if he was on time, so I decided to walk into the village in search of coffee. If I didn’t find a coffee shop within the first few minutes I would make my way back to the car. Almost straight away I found a likely looking shop and poked my head around the door to ask if they sold take away coffee. They did. The shop was called Cafe Parisien and, while I waited for my coffee, I spotted some rather tasty looking cookies in a jar on the counter. Now I’m usually good at resisting the counter top treats but boy was I hungry! I left the shop with a small cup of skinny latte and a chocolate cookie in a bag.

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Sipping happily, I walked back towards the car park, thinking I might find somewhere to sit to enjoy my cookie. There was a bench by the war memorial but two elderly ladies were firmly ensconced so I decided to carry on and see if I could find a log to sit on further along. That was when I spotted a familiar figure running towards me.

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Commando saw me but he’d obviously not quite finished the eighteen miles because he ran right past. I followed at a rather more sedate pace and caught up with him when he sat by the side of the path. I did offer him half my cookie but he said he had his own post race chocolate milk back in the car so we set off towards it.

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While we sipped he told me all about his run. He’d finished in less than three hours, just, but he wasn’t happy with his time and was even less happy that he’d stopped to phone me. Somehow he feels like he he’s cheated if he stops, even for a second. Honestly, what am I going to do with him?

Commando might not think he did very well and he might be a bit despondent about the time and worried he won’t hit his under four hour marathon target but I am proud to bursting of him. He ran eighteen miles in oppressive heat and made it back safe. All this despite killer geese, a cycling race he had to run through the middle of, getting lost, cows, ponies, lack of water… Even if he takes six hours to finish that marathon he will be a hero in my eyes!

When we got home Commando discovered he had a blister. He’s never had one before, at least not from running. Unfortunately, long distances mean blisters. They’re kind of inevitable no matter how many precautions you take. Somewhere after sixteen miles or so seems to be the point when anything that is going to rub, even slightly, will cause a blister. In my time I’ve had some rather spectacular ones. There have been blisters covering the whole of the ball of my foot, blisters on every toe, heel blisters and, once, a big blood blister under my big toe nail. The last is, apparently, called joggers toe, although I’ve never jogged in my life.

In Commando’s eyes this makes me the blister expert so I was given the task of blister tending. This particular blister was one of the more common ones, in my humble experience, between the little toe and the last one. The last month or so of my Moonwalk training I and one there almost constantly, not the same one, a series of different ones. So much so it got to the point I had blisters on top of old blisters, caused by the rough skin of the healing blister rubbing and blistering. Ouch!

Blister plasters were applied and some advice given about filing a slightly sharp little toe nail. After that there was a calf rub and foot massage. Not for me you understand, my calves can look after themselves and my feet are way beyond anything a massage can do to help. There really needs to be some foot pampering SOON!

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Marie

Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

2 thoughts on “Cows, or are they Bulls? – first published 18 August 2013”

  1. My daughter went on a two-night camp course organised by The New Forest where they made shelters like this. They may have been a result of something like this. Otherwise Commoners might have just made one up to shelter from the rain – I often see them in the New Forest.

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