On a turn in the road between ford and end, a lane breaks away. At first, bifurcated, encompassing a perfect triangle of lawn, negative space in the minor infrastructure – a kindness to turning automobiles from either west or south. The scattered outbuildings of houses built on generous rural plots, and, further from the road, pink plastered walls supporting a pristine thatch. Nearby, wind chimes intone a Corinthian chord. Here, a modest fence, a canvas for climbing plants since removed. Their shadows remain, etched into the wood, tributaries feeding mighty channels flowing up to the sky.
The late sun on the daffodils. The thinnest gossamer haze across the valley, all wheat meadows and deciduous trees. A hedgerow, a telegraph line, a row of still-bare oaks make up middle-distance horizontals. Nearer, bird feeders sway in the merest breeze. Sparrows alight, silhouetted by falling rays, flaring through the edges of dense conifers. An evening chorus for the golden sky.
Through the holloway, beyond the wild fields, a patch of ashen earth, an epilogue to a fire. Metal threads, looping to infinity are all that remains. Through sloe and bramble, the path turns and climbs, trod mostly by the shadows of trunk, bough and branch. Next, a homestead: stables (seeming unstable, though), a lilac door, a discarded spool – giant, a basking circle under circle-sun.
It’s wheelless now—the memory of a mill, taxidermally stuffed with department store furnishings. The crossing is ramshackle and time-beaten, all rust and lichen. It marks a way now mostly forgotten, except by those undeterred by unending green. First, a reed marsh, sparsely punctuated with willow and young oak. Next, a fork: one way a lonely farm; the other, along the river, to the eventual promise of huffers.
The sunset field, the dawn field – exposed, yet a haven, threats visible on all sides. There they gather, fifty or so, huddled, mostly calm. Three stags among doe and fawn, and one pale juvenile: an outlier kept safe amid ash and chestnut siblings. There they rest, sniffing and scratching the earth; under sun dogs, contrails and cirrus; awaiting nightfall – the chance to roam.
The church stands apart from the village, a remnant of its old centre to the south and west. Old ways still lead there, seldom trodden, through bog and coppiced copse. One comes to a clearing among aged trees. Wildflowers, and birches, arranged as if columns holding up a vaulted sky. This is nature’s nave: a soundless place.
This field lies seemingly abandoned: too impractically-shaped for the efficiency of farm machines. The many grasses grow tall when sun follows rain, when deer make their beds, and all the clearer are the lines made by badgers. From the witches’ stones to the descending hollow, and up toward the warren by the seasonal brook: All trace back to a hole in the ground at the centre of the field, the home of badgers unseen. Much better to avoid canines and their humans, and wait for dusk, when nature’s introverts roam.