Sunday 12th November 2000, North Warwickshire
hedgbankAFTER A MEMORABLE NIGHT of wedding celebrations at our hotel, the Lea Marston, near Tamworth, North Warwickshire, we're glad to get out for a short stroll in the fresh air the next morning. A couple of the guests join us. I'm struck by what a difference having company on a walk makes. They comment on one or two flowers or fungi as we stroll along Blackgreaves Lane but most of the time we're locked in conversation about marketing and web site design, two subjects I'm fascinated by but which, I realise, I go on walks to forget about. But when you're in company, except in the company of your partner or a very close friend, you can't wander along in silence; it's not very sociable!

country lane On a walk I prefer it if I can let my busy mind to go into free-fall. I like to forget all that day to day stuff, as much as I can ever forget it that is, and let the thousand and one things I might notice as I walk influence my train of thoughts. Ideally I don't even want to have a train of thoughts, it would be great if I could just observe and not have to listen to a kind of running commentary going on in my head all the time.

Imagine, if it really was possible to just observe; not to judge, not to keep thinking 'now, what is the name of that bird, or plant?', not to look for the 'meaning' behind this and that.

lane a Woolley, West YorkshireThere's a short break in the conversation as we arrive back by the hotel.

'That wasn't much of a lane!' remarks one of our walking companions.

It was short, yes, but to me it's a microcosm of the wider world. You could spend a year walking it through the seasons and you'd never get to the end of its surprises. You'd never get to know everything about the secret life of its hedgebanks.

And what about it's history? - we're in Shakespeare's County after all. Why is it called Blackgreaves, 'the dark lands'?('the dark triangular plots of land' in Anglo Saxon).

sandstone pebble, from Keyworth, Nottinghamshire Just picking up one of those pebbles at the roadside would put you in touch with the geological history of this area, in the landlocked Heart of England, which over the last 400 million years has experienced the effects mountain building, desert, tropical forest, ice ages and which, on more than one occasion, has been inundated by warm tropical seas.

But there I go again, starting to tell myself little stories about the landscape. I can't help thinking that such stories just illustrate facets of something more fundamental . . .

hawthorn But it's probably going too far to suggest that you can tap in to the secrets of the universe in a morning walk along a country lane. The lane runs alongside the hotel golf course. One of the definitions of golf is 'a way to ruin a perfectly good walk' and perhaps too much thinking - like too much talking - is another way ruin a good walk!


swans Wild Swans fly over flooded levels by the River Dove. From the car I can't make out whether they're Mute Swans, as I suspect, or Whoopers.

rainbow A string of huge quarries nibble into the south west fringe of the limestone plateau, just outside the confines of the Peak District National Park. The bright arc of a rainbow comes down close to a cement works, which lies over in the direction of Buxton. Surprisingly concrete, that indespensable bedrock of modern life, adds to global warming; we use a lot of fossil fuel to make cement.

ash As we descend into Millersdale the landscape changes from rolling pastures divided drystone walls to a wilder looking gorge. Long low scars of grey Carboniferous Limestone run along the slopes. According to the J. E. Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis, the formation of limestone is one of nature's ways of avoiding the greenhouse effect. Whether that will help us in the short term is another matter.

In places lone Ash trees grow up right up in the middle of a boulder, as if they've cracked apart the bedrock the force of vegetable growth. In reality the crevice came first, offering the young sapling protection from grazing by sheep or page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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