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Woodland Edge

Ramblings of a (would be) Volunteer Ranger, Part 4!

Sence Valley Forest Park, Ibstock

Another month has passed and I’m trying to fit walks in around work, childcare and a holiday.  In the end, for a number of reasons, it takes three attempts.

I can cover my allocated part of the walk, from home – albeit in two chunks.  The first attempt on this occasion was along the shorter section.  Grass was very long in parts – a sign of the time of year and the heady mixture of rain and sunshine we’d had – and it made me very unsure of my footing as it wasn’t possible to see where you were treading.  Always keen to make sure I literally ‘stay on track’, I don’t stray further into the field, where the grass has actually been cut, presumably for winter feed.  Consequently, it’s probably making the walk more difficult than it need be!

Making good, quick, progress I reached part of the walk which had stumped us temporarily the first time out.  On that occasion, approaching from the opposite direction, it had been impossible to get through using the public right of way, as a stile had been so under-used it now formed part of the hedgerow, and was very broken.  This time, the marker post was clearly visible on the opposite side of the field and there were animals in part of it.  Not feeling confident of being able to get out of the field on the other side, and not wanting to unnecessarily spook the animals, I took an alternative, permissive path, previously discovered.

However, the alternative path only got me so far with the rest of it densely blocked by what I now know to be a crop – too high and thick for me to push through (not to mention damage if I did).  Walk aborted; about turn and home.  Never mind, it seemed sensible to tackle it from the opposite direction another day.

Frustratingly, that proved to be unsuccessful too, effectively meaning the wider route was blocked – I reported back as required.

A couple of days later, on a lovely summer evening, it was time to do ‘the long stretch’.  It was a walk filled with flies – horseflies!!  Only later did it register it might have been the banana in my rucksack which was the attraction.  Anyone seeing me walking along, arms waving in the air, would have steered clear!  Long grass and overgrown vegetation was a common theme, some of which I now had permission to trim, but it soon became clear it was more than a one-person job.  One problem area, previously reported, had been partly sorted – a significant amount of overgrown vegetation had been chopped back, but the gate it led to was still completely overgrown and on the other side, grass to my head height, now compounded by an overhanging branch – not a walk for short people!

Crossing another field of crops, a pair of birds rose and twittered around incessantly as if trying to tell me something.  Stopping to watch them, I didn’t recognise their call; what were they?  One landed a short distance away, whilst the other continued its chatter overhead.  The first came a little closer but I still couldn’t tell – it had a yellow breast but hang on, I recognise that tail movement, they’re not called wagtails for nothing!  It wasn’t the commonly seen pied wagtail though and although I knew of a grey and yellow wagtail – I’d never seen either.  A few photos on the mobile to try and help identification, but it really needed a zoom lens!

Pushing on and there’s a directional sticker needing replacement – but I’ve brought the wrong one!  Should have checked previous notes and photos more carefully – lesson learned.  Towards the end of the walk, I met a man in a field!  Not something I make a habit of you’ll be pleased to know – actually I was worried it was the farmer wanting to know what I was doing walking across his field.  Turns out the gentleman was collecting samples of plants, which grow amongst crops, for a botanical survey he was doing.  Walking into the nearest village, and the end of the stage, it turns out he’d not only heard of the National Forest Way he had already walked some of it – including this stage – and had been an early user of the website when it was first launched.

We know there are people out there walking the Way because we hear from you – but it’s good to meet you too!