20 April 2016
This morning I thought I’d get out early, well earlyish, and try to get some miles under my belt. Ever since my adventure in Tickleford Gully with CJ I’d been thinking about walking a circular route to the shore through the gully and back via the trails in Mayfield Park, or perhaps the other way around. Since we’d had a couple of days with no rain I thought today would be a good day to try it. If I was lucky there wouldn’t be too much mud.
At first I couldn’t decide whether to start with Tickleford Gully or the Butterfly Walk. All the way along Spring Road I dithered but, when I got to Mayfield Park, I’d had enough of road walking so I went through the gate. At least the path looked dry. With a glance at a sign telling me about a spring fayre I set off.
Despite the name, past experience told me I’d be unlikely to see too many butterflies but I was hoping for a few wildflowers. In this respect the first part of the path was a bit of a disappointment. Apart from the odd dandelion there were no flowers at all. Even the rhododendrons were devoid of flowers or buds, although I’ve seen plenty flowering elsewhere. Still, it was nice to be walking amongst the trees in the sunshine with blue sky overhead so I wasn’t complaining.
There are small chainsaw carvings dotted along the trail and, just before it divides, a small clearing with a larger carving. Sadly, when I got to it I discovered it had been knocked over, presumably by vandals. It seems such a shame. When I took a closer look I found it was covered with moss and fungi.
Pretty soon I came to the bridge over the stream that runs from Millers Pond all through these woods. As I approached I could see something in the water. It turned out to be an abandoned motorbike, similar to the one CJ found in Tickleford Gully. If he’d been with me he’d have been scrambling down the bank for sure. No doubt it was stolen from somewhere but, for the life of me, I’ll never understand why people feel they have to dump things like this in such beautiful places.
On the other side of the bridge the trail runs at the bottom of a steep slope close to the edge of the stream. Up above is the Archery Ground. If there was going to be mud this was where I’d find it. In fact, in no time at all I’d come to the first of it, a boggy puddle where water had run down from the higher ground above. Luckily it was easy enough to get across with a little leap. There were sedges flowering here and now my steps were accompanied by the tinkling water of the stream.
Suddenly the wildflowers I’d been expecting earlier were everywhere. First a small clump of bluebells, then a whole mass of them lining the trail. Further on there were wood anemones, beautiful white petals almost glowing in the sunlight. I walked on smiling to myself.
The smile soon faded when I came to the next muddy patch. There was no leaping over this one. Gingerly I skirted it as best I could, using a few fallen logs as stepping stones. There were a few heart stopping moments when I slipped and nearly ended up on my bum in the mud but I made it through eventually.
For my troubles I found a patch of squills beside the trail and some raggedly looking celandines. Then, much to my surprise I actually saw a butterfly. He kindly sat on the path in front of me but he didn’t hang around for me to get a close up. Still it proves there really are butterflies here to justify the name of the trail.
I was still grinning inanely when I spotted two ladies sitting in a garden at the top of the bank, my calculations told me it was probably one of the houses in Swift Road. It looked as if they were having a glass of wine and enjoying the sun but I might have imagined the first part. They saw me walking past and waved. How lovely to have a garden overlooking the stream. On I went, imagining sitting in a garden like that watching walkers like me pass by and waving.
Soon after this I came to the Hobbit tree, at least that’s how I think of it because it looks as if it has a little doorway at the bottom. Every time i pass it I imagine knocking on the door and going inside. Of course I’d have to find a magic mushroom like Alice in Wonderland first so I could shrink down to the right size.
The gnarled old tree with the door in it marks a turning point on the trail. Beyond it the path turns. There’s a rather unexciting bridge across the stream a little way on. There were dandelions here and a ladybird sitting amongst them, something else to make me smile. The path then turns towards Archery Road. It’s a bit of a steep climb. The first time I walked this way I was coming in the opposite direction and met a father and daughter puffing and panting their way up. It seemed to me I was going in the sensible direction, now I had the climb ahead of me.
Puffing and panting a bit myself I crossed the road and set off along the final part of the trail towards the shore. This little wooded area is called Jurds Lake and there is a lake here somewhere, at least I think there is. So far I haven’t actually found it and today I wasn’t really looking. Once this was part of Weston Grove House, built by MP William Chamberlain in 1801. The house is long gone, like so many of the huge villas that once dominated the area. The trail here is fairly overgrown but there was blossom on the cherry trees. Perhaps the Chamberlains once enjoyed the cherries I remember seeing on that first visit.
Further along there were flowers on the hawthorn, the first I’ve seen this year. The saying ‘don’t cast a clout ’till May be out’ sprang to mind. It seems quite early but then everything does this year so I don’t know why I was surprised. Perhaps I could have left my jacket behind, although I was glad enough of it when I set out in the cool morning air.
Not Long after this I came out on Victoria Road and crossed for the final part of my journey. The shore was almost in sight now. In fact I swear I could smell the sea. Through the gate is a short trail bounded on both sides by houses. At the far end is a ragged brick wall, perhaps it once belonged to Chamberlain’s villa? Through the gap I could see the sea.
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