Kathryn Harries - Soprano

Sunday, May 28, 2006

An unexpected companion

No coughing during the night; Bridget has been giving me cider vinegar and honey in hot water and I think it has done the trick. I’m feeling much better.
Breakfast and then Lorna rearranged the Jag. We needed to accommodate four people in the car today as Hilary and Annabelle were meeting us at the Holly Tree in Bromyard for a day’s walking.
Lorna and I arrived at the Total garage and Hilary and Annabelle followed us to the pub. We sorted out what we wanted to wear and what we needed to carry and set off up a fairly busy B road towards Stanford Bridge. The distance by road was around 11 miles, but we decided after a couple of narrow squeaks with oncoming traffic that we’d be better off taking footpaths than ending up in hospital.
We followed a winding lane with virtually no traffic which enabled us to walk side by side and have a proper chat. The countryside was magnificent; rolling hills with every shade of green imaginable. The sky was largely blue – oh joy, oh rapture – and there was a slight coolness in the light breeze that made walking a real pleasure.
We passed an oast house and speculated on farming past and present; and then found ourselves crossing a cattle grid which had a herd of heifers standing sentinel the on other side. I shooed them away but like yobos hanging around on street corners looking for trouble, they followed us, bellowing what sounded like insults. Annabelle was understandably anxious, but we walked on with a convincing air of insouciance as they barged and shouted behind us, until we reached an old fashioned metal pedestrian gate and walked into the comparative calm of the adjoining field.
The heifers lined up along the fence and jeered at us as we walked down the meadow until they lost interest and looked for something else to amuse them.
We crossed a couple of stiles and slipped and slid up a very muddy slope to a road. Then it was up and up and up a long, very steep hill. The reward was a fantastic panoramic view, although I’m not sure Hilary and Annabelle were quite as enthusiastic about it as I was.
As often happens, when a crucial decision needed to be made someone turned up to help us. A young man with his dog checked his map against ours – and miraculously we were exactly where I thought we were – and, on his advice, we set off downhill along a bridlepath. He did warn us it was muddy, but we didn’t really grasp just how muddy he meant.
I furnished us all with sticks from the dense undergrowth beside the treacherous, steeply descending path and they enabled us to reach the bottom without falling on our backsides and sliding all the way down.
Our shoes were caked in thick, red Herefordshire mud and poor Annabelle’s trousers were mud from the knee down.
The next challenge was a fallen tree across the sharply rising path that led us away from the stream. I scrambled up a bank and shoved my way through God knows what to get to the other side and H and A picked their way through the tree itself in a considerably more lady-like manner.
We toiled along a forest road for much further than my map indicated-that was when I realised that I’d gone wrong yet again. Pathetic.
Our guardian angels were looking out for us however, because with the help of a charming lady in a wheelchair, a group of adults leading a bunch of kids on ponies along the bridleway and a delightful landowner, we got ourselves right and reached the ancient church of Lower Sapey. The church is still consecrated but is empty apart from a large cross. It had a deep and intense peacefulness and because of the history of the village and church during the time of the Black Death, there was a great poignancy and tangible connection with the distant past.
I checked with the house owner next door that we were headed in the right direction and then, accompanied by said house owner’s black and tan Jack Russell, we set off up the steepest hill of the day.
Charlie, the dog, obviously thought that all his Christmases had come at once, and we were his new best friends. We tried to send him home but he was having none of it; it was walkies whether we liked it or whether we didn’t.
Eventually, I caught hold of the little bugger and rang his owner who came with unnecessary apologies to collect him. We waved him goodbye and strolled the last mile into Clifton upon Teme. The pub beckoned and after a swift half of lager, I left Lorna, Hilary and Annabelle nursing their drinks and sore feet as I headed off towards Stanford Bridge.
Alone, I could get into my stride and swing along at just under four miles an hour. And, with a bit of cross country as well as road work, made Stanford Bridge in very short order.
Hilary and Annabelle joined once more for a few miles; Annabelle is only fifteen and she was not only first class company but she walked exceptionally well for a youngster.
Enough was enough eventually, and she retired to the Jag leaving me and Hilary to slog our way up hill to Clows Top. The views in every direction were some of the best I have ever seen and worth the long climb and traffic dodging.
Hilary bowed out at the crossroads and I carried on to Far Forest, three miles further on, where I stopped. I still had my trust stick and found that it was quite helpful for keeping up the pace. And it would make a really good weapon…
We drove back to Bromyard and made our way back to Leominster in our separate cars. Bridget cooked yet another delicious supper, this time of salmon fishcakes and they all disappeared in very short order between the five of us.
Hilary and Annabelle departed for the Youth Hostel they were staying at – it was called the Priory and I said to Hilary that people might very well confuse it with the place people go to in order to get over their drug problems…
And we all said goodnight and went to bed. Only one more day in this idyllic place. Shame. 20 ½ miles.


Post a comment

<< Home