There’s a kind of quiet joy to be had in walking the same route every day, even when it is forced on you. My daily walk takes me on a roughly 2 mile route, the middle part of which is a circuit around our scrubby local ‘nature reserve’. The sweeping, majestic plains of the Serengeti it is not. It’s a strip of land on either side of a small stream, circled on all sides by housing estates. But it does have wild flowers and some mature trees, and — as all I’ve had in the way of nature during lockdown — I have come to love it.
When you walk almost the same route every day, you notice how quickly things change. One day, the patches of uncut grass are a variegated green, the next they are a wild explosion of white cow parsley flowers. The tender, lime green new oak leaves turn into deep green, blowsy coverings in days.
Each time I cross the stream, I look upstream and downstream: you never know what you might see. One day I saw a little egret, a brilliant white flash against the brown water. It seemed an impossibly glamorous visitor to this suburban area. I once saw a kingfisher further down this stream, so who knows? Today might be my lucky day.
After the bridge, I walk the length of the open meadow area before circling back, saving the best bit for last. There’s an area semi-enclosed by tall trees which feels calm and private when you walk into it. You can enter by passing under a broad horizontal branch, like the oak lintel of a grand old house. This week it is decorated festively with tufts of sprouting leaves, welcoming us to summer.
I have always loved trees, and my appreciation of them has deepened as my access to them has reduced. I always slow a little when I get into this area, wanting to make it last. A few weeks ago, I could hear a gusty wind approaching, shaking the crowns of the trees as it came. I closed my eyes and waited for it to arrive, sweeping my over-grown hair off my face and making me smile. This part of the walk is always over too soon, but there’s always tomorrow.