Here we are again, just like every afternoon for ages now, off for The Walk. Just me (ancient, creaky, stick) and my grown son Jay (tall, specs, autistic). Fortunately, we can make each other laugh – precious in these strange lockdown times. In our house we also have the cat (old, tabby- and-white, cattle prod for encouraging slaves).
So here we go, down the muddy bank and onto the Green. This is mown grass. It was turfed over after they demolished the remains of a Victorian factory or two, so that they could build that new estate you can see up there. Apparently research has shown that seeing stretches of horizontal green like this are calming, good for us – I can believe it.
So, down to the little lake we go. No coots today, but the Canada geese are nesting on the bank. A few pairs of ducks about. The pond weed is coming back, too, so I guess there will be plenty of insects for the birds now. Talk about birds – just listen to that glorious din of birdsong from the surrounding woodland! Can you hear that single, miraculous song ring out above the rest; a blackbird, maybe, or a thrush? Wish I’d learned to recognise birdsong in my younger days.
We talk as we go. It’s a good time to share silly stories.
“Did you know, the cat’s thinking of getting a helicopter?” “Really? Where’s she going to keep it?”
“In the garden, she said.”
“No room. Her tyrannosaurus is there.”
“Oh yes. Have to be on the roof then, I suppose.” “Mm”.
When they made this into a tiny country park a few years ago, they left the woodland alone. Lots of scrubby new growth, with a few mature trees. Hawthorn, sparkling with fresh green leaves now, and brambles and ivy, filling in the gaps. To our right there’s a raggedy little stand of redcurrant bushes. If it was later in the year we might find a handful of berries to munch.
A pair of magpies are lurking about deep in the wood on our left. One peeps out from behind a tree trunk and says ‘Kark?’ suggestively to Jay – cue for developing a ludicrous scenario about flirting magpies.
“Well hello there sailor! You look very – fit – in those jeans. Like to hold my feather?”
Stop laughing. No, really. Stop. Look, there are people coming. Let’s get out of the way. Remember
the 6ft rule? “Afternoon. Hello dog.”
Here’s the ancient cobbled path called ‘Nursery Walk’, and we turn left to go uphill towards the main road. Still woodland here, but soon we hear the traffic, cross over and go into the playing field. We’re really high up here. Look! There’s the wind farm all lit up in the sunlight, and Ramsbottom Moor there – can you see Peel Tower on the top? And a long way off, Saddleworth Moor. The wind is cold, isn’t it?
And we head home, via the lovely, scruffy back alleys, for cups of hot tea.
CM April 2020