I walk alone.

old apple tree and footpath No MansAnother research trip for my book took me to No Man’s Orchard outside Chartham Hatch at dusk on a January evening where my presence seemed to concern others.

No Man’s Orchard – January

I walked away from the village down the narrow cut leading to the orchard, the wood sorrel lemoning the bankside verges. The tops of the pines burnished in sunlight. Emerging from the woods into the orchard , the light dazzled you. Wood smoke gathered in the deep dish of the valley. The blackbirds were chinking and sighing out the day.

I stopped at the noticeboard leading to the orchard. Three dogs came careering down the path, surrounding me, barking,  followed by a couple striding out in wellies.

“You look suspicious,” the women said accusingly, gathering in her dogs with irritation.

“Do I?” I say, wondering just how.

“Well, you’re on your own. Without a dog.”

“In that case, I’m often looking suspicious.” I told her.

I could see she was unimpressed. What are you doing? She wanted to ask. What can you possibly be doing, out here, at dusk, on your own?

But, it seems someone forgot to send me the memo telling me that women are not supposed to do this. Just walk in the countryside, dogless, after the allotted hour of curfew.

I walked on, Under the arms of the grandmother trees, 150 Bramley’s, fleckle barked, Fieldfare chucking and the warm rot of apples still scenting the air. Wrens fizz by into the bramble.

enhanced moon rise BigburyI’m heading for Bigbury, where the ancestors lived. Up on the hill they traded and worshipped and enslaved their neighbours before being discovered by Julius Cesar and his invading army.

It’s growing dark, in the woods, it is all mud and rot, my iris’s darken to let in the light. My senses become alive to twig crack and footfall. I am not immune to fear. I don’t walk alone in the woods with no sense of it.

Charles Foster in his book, Being a Beast says, that hunting ‘gave me back my senses. A man with a gun sees, hears, smells and intuits much more than the same man with a bird book and a pair of binoculars,’  Maybe so, but the same man will never know the sharpening of the senses a women who walks alone in the countryside at dusk knows . He knows only what it is like to be the predator not what it is like to be the prey.

The full moon rises, the first of the year and the owls begin to call. I walk softly back up the darkening cut. I can’t escape the fear, it is hardwired into me. It makes me that bit more alive to the darkening woods. I can only refuse to be driven indoors by it.

 

 

6 thoughts on “I walk alone.

  1. Couldn’t agree more Carol – we should never let anything drive us indoors when there is such beauty outdoors! I love No Man’s Orchard and having grown up in Chartham Hatch it was fabulous to hear someone else enjoying that special place … it has so much to see and hear all year round. I was only sorry that your experience was interrupted by someone trying to pass their gear into you! I walk alone a lot of the time and love the solitude as it gives me time to truly immerse myself in all that is around me. Thanks for the article and I only hope that you will visit again…. without fear.
    PS. Slight typo – it’s Chartham Hatch (probably predictive text thinking of the larger Chatham instead of the were village of Chartham Hatch!). Thanks again for the timely reminder….I feel a walk through No Man’s Orchard, the surrounding hop fields and orchards coming on …. with a visit to Bigbury Camp thrown in for good measure!🌿🌾🍁🍂

    • Thanks so much for letting me know you enjoyed the article. It is a beautiful place. I help manage it with the volunteers of the Kentish Stour Partnership so have enjoyed it in all seasons.

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