It’s astonishing what happens given an unexpectedly spare hour, sunshine, and a fit of conscience. Yes, I thought I ought to make a proper Janathon effort today, and return to walking the Parish Boundary. I know, you thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you? But no. Also not forgotten was my promise of a late birthday walk for Brother Duncan, and for good measure I invited Spot too. (For those who don’t know, I find virtual dogs the easiest to walk, although they both very much exist!)
We headed out past the castle, and through the field (glorious, isn’t it) down to the hollow track way which forms the next bit of boundary. This bit is a real road, used by the Forestry Commission for shipping enormous tree trunks out of the forest for processing. It’s got some good potholes, which are useful for cleaning boots. Yes, I was rocking the tights and walking socks combo. I have a public persona after all! Then it’s continue along the road, which has been beautifully re-surfaced by the council since I last walked it. If it didn’t have a farm on it, it would doubtless be called “Back Lane”, but instead it’s named after the farm, or vice versa. As I walked along, the bank to my left became far higher, and eventually was taller than me. It’s actually a double bank and ditch, a real boundary if ever I saw one.
Sadly the photo doesn’t show it too well, but there are even drainage breaks in it, with
stone which looks as though it was robbed out of the castle. Let’s face it, half the old village is built using stone from the castle, it’s why there isn’t much castle left. The farm itself is on the “foreign” side of the boundary, although at one time I suspect there were more houses down the lane on both sides – there are places where the tree line leaves the road side to give a far broader verge which is much more like scrubland now. But it is a very fine farm, with
beautiful bricks and flint work, not only on the farmhouse itself (which looks Georgian in its proportionsto my untutored eye), but also on the adjoining barn and the brick wall around the old farmyard side. Of course, it has expanded now with concrete barns and sheds further along the road.
Eventually the boundary disappeared off the road to the left, but I didn’t have time to walk up through the forest and around Biddesden, so I kept on the lane until I got to the next road into the village, and then started heading for home. I often describe the village as “three streets wide” but that ignores something important. As the village expanded, the estates grew by a series of “courtyards” – one lot of houses facing the road, and then three sides around a car park and garages. This leaves one side of houses set a long way back from the road, looking out over the fields towards the boundary I have just walked. And some genius saw fit to run a footpath right past their front doors back to the heart of the village. It’s a pedestrian road parallel to those for cars, and it’s very straight and very quick. I had forgotten about it – I sometimes walk bits of it whilst searching for houses (not to be undertaken in the dark, the numbers are too hard to see). In effect, it’s another boundary – houses and sometimes back gardens to one side, fields to the other. I met a few lovely Key Stage Ones “Hello Reverend Claire” and smiled at their slightly suspicious mothers (it’s hard to see a dog collar under a stark, hat, coat and jumper – my Mum used to describe anyone bundled up like me today as looking “like a stuffed owl”.) It wasn’t until I was off that path and back on to the main pavements that I met people who saw straight through the bundled up owl and said hello!
I’m confident that Spot and Duncan both went home long before that point, because it was very cold. I saw no sign of Pedro, the black lab who had deserted his owner, leaving her yelling his name on the edge of the woods (at least if I yell for my cats, only my neighbours hear, so it doesn’t matter if their names are daft. I’ve just realised why dog owners use sensible names!)
Distance: 3 miles
Time: 1 hour
Weather: bright sunshine, bitter wind
Dogs: 2 visual, 4 real, 1 missing
Recognised by: 4 children; 2 adults
Rector’s rating: 10/10 top notch!