When I set out on the last Wednesday morning of February 2014 I had grand plans for an epic walk. Not too epic because I had even greater plans for Sunday and I didn’t want to wear myself out. What I was thinking was maybe nine to ten miles. Although the sky was blue and the sun was out it was cold so I wrapped up well. This ended up being my downfall.
26 Fenruary 2014
The first part of what I hoped would be a nice long walk took me through Hum Hole then Cutbush Lane. After that the plan was to check out the long lane that leads to Fairoak. Commando runs it sometimes even though there are no footpaths for a good part of it. If I was brave enough to walk it, it would certainly add to my route repertoire. By the time I got to the end of Cutbush Lane things had warmed up considerably and it was obvious I was overdressed. The hat and gloves had come off and gone in my rucksack but there wasn’t much I could do about the padded coat, the thick jumper or the body warmer.
Maybe if I popped into the garden centre and had a coffee I’d feel better? Of course, once I was in the garden centre even the lure of coffee couldn’t stop me having a quick look at the plants. When I walked back out my rucksack was bulging. There were raspberry roots a purple arum lily corm and a big packet of multicoloured tigridia corms. Those were a bit of a surprise, all summer I saw them in the parks and, after Googling, thought they were called tremezia. The garden centre labeled them tigridia though and some more Googling tells me they were right and I was wrong. In my defence both are from the iridaceae family and, from a photograph, look very similar.
By this time I was boiling. Believe it or not I didn’t even stop for a coffee because the inside of the garden centre was so hot I couldn’t bear it. Back outside I had to decide whether to check out the lane, walk back along the river or go back the way I’d come. A little bit of indecisive walking up and down happened. Then the sky started to cloud over and that made up my mind. It would be back the way I came. The river path might well be flooded, I was too hot and the lane was out of the question especially if it rained.
On the outbound walk I’d not really been looking about me too much. I’d been thinking about the route and where I would go if I managed to reach the end of the lane. Now I took things more slowly. Apart from anything it was mostly uphill and I was seriously overheated. Even unzipping the jacket didn’t really help.
Once I was looking there were signs of spring everywhere. The cuckoo pint were out all along the lane, how I didn’t notice before I don’t know. It seems a little early for them but that may be because we haven’t really had any cold weather this winter. Amongst them celandine seem to be popping up in every cranny too, lovely bright splashes of yellow wherever I looked. In 1800, Hampshire diarist Gilbert White noted they first appear on February 21, which is pretty spot on although usually they are seen between March and May. Either way they’re known as the ‘spring messenger.’
Just before the hill starts to climb really steeply there was a huge boggy puddle to negotiate. On the way down I’d managed without too much trouble and I did the same on the way back but with slightly more squelching.
Further on the trees crowd in on the path. So many trees have fallen this winter I was alert for any creaking or groaning. Some of the trees seemed to be leaning alarmingly and, looking at the roots, the soil has eroded away quite disturbingly. One in particular was clinging to the bank by its finger tips. Looking back once I’d passed there was a root cave large enough for a child to sit in.
Near the top of the path some orange brown fungi was sprouting from a rotten log. It looked as if something had been having a good old nibble on it. There were more fungi in Hum Hole, turkey tails in beautiful greens and browns on every stump. Apparently people used them to decorate tables and hats once upon a time. They are also used in Chinese medicine and have been tested for use as an anti cancer drug.
When I got home I was exhausted even though I’d only walked about five and a half miles. I put that down to getting so hot. That’s the trouble with this time of year, it’s hard to know how to dress.
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