Kathryn Harries - Soprano

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Best. Day. Ever.

Goodbye Llandaff, Angela, Gareth, Linda and dear Jamie who gave up his room for me. What a star. As my friend Pam says about my son, Will, I’ll have to just jump in the freezer and wait for him… That, of course, will completely freak the poor fellow out. Sorry.
Lorna and I emptied the Jag and stuffed everything back in as well as we could – at least well enough that she could see out of the rear window. Our belongings seem to be expanding and I’m not sure why.
We drove back to Abergavenny in brilliant sunshine. I couldn’t believe how blue the sky was and what a difference it immediately made to both our outlooks.
I took my rucksack and wore my old grey waterproof into Abergavenny and boiled in the heat. There seems to be no half-way house at the moment as far as the weather is concerned.
Lorna went on ahead into town and bought me an ordnance survey map of the area. I had a suspicion I’d need to cut onto minor roads and in very short order I was proved right.
The A465 had a pavement but was very noisy and tiring. And what’s the point of walking through some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK on a smelly, noisy main road? So I quickly branched off into the glorious Monmouthshire and Herefordshire lanes and had one of the nicest day’s walking I’ve ever had. Ever.
I hardly saw a car; the lanes were often little more than dirt tracks and the rolling hills and craggy outcrops dipped and swooped away into the purple, hazy distance. The sun shone, the birds warbled and chattered in their droves, the sun beat on my back and every hill revealed another priceless view. I started the day feeling very slow and under the weather because of this annoying chest infection. So I followed my body’s command and settled for a gentle, consistent speed that allowed all the muscles to warm up gradually.
I sweated the infection out as the day went on and gradually regained my normal energy level and, after an excellent lunch provided by Lorna, felt almost back to what passes for normal.
What a lot of hills. I couldn’t believe how many seriously steep ones there are in this neck of the woods. Up and down I went, taking in one magnificent vista after another. Everything was perfect on both the large and small scale. The grandeur of the panoramic scenery was way beyond spectacular; but in each hedgerow there were splashes of wild flowers; around every corner lay another treat for the eye; and the scent of the air was clean and clear and bore traces of coconut from the gorse and the jasmine of wisteria.
We lunched in a lay-by on a ridge which had long, long views on each side. It was breathtaking: I don’t have the words to describe the deep sense of peace and rightness I felt as I sat there in the open air simply being part of the glory all around me.
We arranged to meet at Grosmont some five miles further on and Lorna had a cup of tea and chocolate digestives ready in a trice when I arrived.
Onwards to Kintchurch and while I was wondering whether I’d made yet another mistake, I spotted the spire of an ancient church tucked into a copse of densely green trees. Phew! I was in the right place.
That didn’t last for much longer because I disbelieved my map and went past the church instead of taking a tiny lane to my left. A helpful young lady put me straight and after a short backtrack I set off up a very long, steep hill.
Lorna and I had agreed to meet at a place that sounded like a cross between a sneeze and a cough. But when I reached the junction there was no sign of her. So I gave her a quick call on the mobile and said, horror of horrors, that I was setting off cross-country because it was so much more direct.
Well, it would have been if I hadn’t wandered aimlessly round a large, muddy field looking for a gate that was only fifty yards from the point at which I’d entered.
After that, however, I was really quite good and I found my way to Kilpeck without mishap and met Lorna beside another pretty Herefordshire church. It really is my favourite county, and I constantly have the sensation that I’m surrounded by the shades of all the thousands of people who’ve walked these hills before me. It has an ancient feel to it like Wiltshire, but is less wild and intimidating. In this county of Herefordshire, I’m very aware of the bending of Time and feel past and present exist simultaneously. Cue the men in white coats again.
I decided to do another few miles and ended up in Kivernoll. The light was beginning to dim and the next mile or so was on a very busy B road that had no pavements and nowhere much to hide. So, with discretion and valour uppermost in my mind, I called it a day and Lorna and I headed for our next temporary home.
Kingsland is aptly named; it is the land that time forgot and a piece of paradise as far as I’m concerned. Jill P. and I stayed there five years ago on the long walk and had a really special time with a group of truly special and marvellous people.
We stopped at the rambling home of Jackie and Bryan Markham in the centre of Kingsland and Jackie took us up the road to the home of Bridget Eastaugh who was looking after us for the next four days. Bridget is the widow of Bishop Eastaugh of Hereford and one of the most capable and kind people on the planet.
By the time she and her newly married daughter, Katie, arrived home, Lorna and I were well ensconced and ready to go up to the Markhams for supper.
A great meal in great company and if I don’t stop stuffing all this wonderful food into my face I am going to explode. Oh dear.
Back to Bridget’s and bed. This is what it seems to boil down to; the nitty gritty of walking is very basic. One operates at human being speed, one’s surrounded by natural things, the loo becomes an overriding issue at least half a dozen times a day, and bath, food and bed take on enormous importance. It’s all very therapeutic and fulfilling. Goodnight. And by the way, I walked 22 miles today.

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