Impersonating a man with a great deal of local knowledge as I walked through Minstead this morning to pick up my route through the two underpasses turning at the Sir Walter Tyrrell pub, there was only one visitor I was unable to direct. One of two, that is. Just a 50% success rate. Not very impressive really.
The bracken on the other side of the A31 has almost obscured some of the tracks I took last time I trod a diagonal to Rufus Stone (see post of 19th November last year). However, my friends will be relieved to learn that I was unerring in my direction. Maybe they won’t. Had I erred they may have had a laugh.
Some of the fallen trees have degraded enough to be flaking and blending well with last year’s autumn leaves.
The forest was very quiet today. Just two sounds interrupted my silence. The first was a sudden neighing. This is very unusual. Ponies don’t usually waste that much energy. I turned to see four of them making their way to the Rufus Stone car park, where they no doubt hoped to perform some scam on eager tourists. I could have told them that the visitors hadn’t arrived yet. A little later, a scuttling in the crispness underfoot, had me turning to spy a scut scooting through the undergrowth. It was the tail of either a small deer or a very large rabbit.
I’m sure there is a name for the step-thingies that climbers inset into sheer rock faces so that they may scale them. Bracket fungi on a dead tree looked to me to be the prehistoric climber’s version of these.
It is sometimes amazing what one finds in the forest. Today’s gem was a pair of inappropriate footwear. I speculated about who may have left them. Had it been an eighteenth century beau? Had it been Sybil Leek, whose story was told on 22nd of this month? If so, where was her pointed hat? Or was it one of the young women who had participated in the orgy mentioned on 22nd May? And why were they placed so neatly?
Soon after finding these, I heard siren song, and was tempted by glimpses of diaphanous material wafting across a comparatively open space, to investigate. This led me into very boggy terrain in which I expected to be stranded. Never having been daft enough to venture into a quagmire before moving to Minstead, I had not seen this white fabric before, and looked it up on Google when I got home. It was, of course, bog cotton.
Back on dry ground, I found a pair of sloughed wings.
As I clambered up the gravel path from the Malwood Farm underpass, I encountered a small stag beetle struggling across the stones. This took me back to the long hot summers of my childhood in the dry and dusty suburbs of Raynes Park and Wimbledon. There may, of course, have only been one such summer, but, as we know, anything that happens once in a child’s life is magnified in later life into a regular occurrence.
However often it was, a regular sight was a, usually much larger, (but then it would be to a child, wouldn’t it?) beetle lying on its back, its legs twitching away. Chris and I, like all other boys, kind and generous to all living creatures, always put these insects out of their misery and back onto their feet. This required a certain amount of nerve, and a lever. After all, we were not going to put our fingers near those grasping claws. If we were eating an ice lolly at the time there was no problem. We just had to watch the squirming animal while we finished our refreshment, and we then had a ready-made implement or two. If not, we had to search out a twig. These were not in plentiful supply in our streets. Or a used match. There were loads of them, but they were a bit short, which meant fingers near the grabbers. It was okay if we shifted the beetle through 180 degrees first time. It would then stagger to its feet and make off sharpish. If, however, we applied to much force, the poor creature went through 360 degrees and the procedure had to be repeated. Probably we should have carried forceps around with us. I do hope the beetles were eternally grateful.
Tonight we dined on a superb mixed grill casserole with twice cooked swede and potato mash and virgin cauliflower. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I began Terres de Galets bottle number 010165.