Monday, October 8, 2007

A Country Park

This morning P and I went for a walk in a Country Park a few miles away. I dislike its tidied and urbanised nature but at its centre are two lakes which make it worth a visit.

We go briskly along the near side of the main lake without my really noticing it, and then break away from the main track to find a wilder patch. The bracken here reaches up to my chin and to start with the path I found here a few months earlier eludes me. Then I find it, and my hollow footfalls on the beaten earth sound as though I'm walking along above a secret tunnel. September's sun is low against my face.

On the far side of the smaller lake I sit down on a convenient fallen trunk, sprung against my weight across a gap, and the sun promptly goes in. Then I notice the mildly sulphuric smell of the backwater - too late: P is up to her elbows in stinking black mud. We move to a cleaner stretch of the lake and P continues her investigations along the bank, sending ripples through the reflection on overhanging trees. Tiny pin pricks all across the water's surface reveal the movement of insects below. Heavier versions of dragonflies hover like bombers, their wings a slow, nearly-visible blur. By now, P is trying to find something forbidden to get my attention. Failing repeatedly, she comes eventually to sit beside me. Time to move on.

The ground is thick with acorn cups, but where are all the acorns? The under-storey of the bracken is dieing and turning Pippa-coloured. Away from the pond, the fragmented glare of light bounces off a mass of small leaved trees and I pluck a sprig from them to check its identity later (unsuccessfully as it turn out).

We come back on high ground above the main lake, on a wide track with banks arching up around it, the sides held back by fingers of roots. Among the trees are a mature holly, its branches in gracefully swept dense layers, and a painfully slender rowan with ornamentally complex leaves.

Even up here the park management seems heavy-handed to me. Around one tree-trunk, a trio of next boxes is packed together, making me wonder whether birds care to be housed in such proximity. I suppose it saves on flying time for visiting - and also on ladder moving time when putting them up there.

We're nearly back at the start. The graveled path changes to tarmac. Just as I'm getting really annoyed by the growing traffic noise, we pass the last few bushes and suddenly the main lake is there - arrestingly beautiful. I remember why we come back here, as the sunlight glints on the water. Watching, I discern more and more patterns across is as clouds move above, the light changes, and wind ruffles the surface. It must never look quite the same for two moments together. Even the unconvincingly antiqued boat-house is in keeping in such an obviously picturesque setting.

No wonder they take such care of it all really.

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