The mud and leaf matter had been well compacted on the ground by the feet of New Year walkers eager to burn off those Christmas calories. The wide paths cut deep through the woodland, which allowed access to the hordes of visiting families but reduced the wilderness feeling the woodland bestowed upon me. I wondered how these man-made rides affected the woodland’s functioning, as everywhere I turned there were different routes to choose. Families pushed their prams along the pathways while children ran around in the mud, with a look of great happiness on their faces. It was good for the families, but I wanted to escape, so I walked briskly past the chattering parents and giggling children and onwards into the woodland. The paths were still wide but I passed a tree with its roots that were exposed to the world – they twisted and turned as a stormy sea would.
Further I went, the reinforced paths beneath my feet slowly reduced as they turned into trails of well-trodden mud, dark and slippery in nature. I continued on; the noise of bustling families disappeared amongst the tall trees. I soon saw the opening to the clearing and exited the cover of the trees and emerged into the meadow. I walked along the nibbled grass, as the livestock eyed me suspiciously, before turning to look at the woodland I had just left. The trees looked so bare without their summer attire, but they reached high into the sky, as the somewhat baleful long-tailed silhouettes of magpies flew past them.
I next came to the lake and with the light fading the stony cold winter temperature was freezing the water. The shards of ice were coming together and soon the whole lake would be covered. I then saw the mark of yellow on a bird’s head in a small tree in front of me, I quickly stopped my observation of the lake’s surface and watched the goldcrest flit about the branches. It then flew further up the path into a tree which was hosting a group of around eight long-tailed tits. The tree branches covered the clear sky in an abstract fashion, as the long tails of the tits hung out from the branches. Staring up at them my neck began to ache, but I listened to their high-pitched calls as they continued to hurry about their evening amongst the bare branches of winter. Blue tits too joined them. As the sun faded further I felt I should be on my way so left them to their mutterings.
The path up ahead was surrounded by the movements of birds: the medium dark shape of a male blackbird dashed through the undergrowth; chaffinches flew across the path, their white wing-bar clear in the coming darkness and a great tit appeared a metre from me and perched on top of the undergrowth, keen it appeared to attract my attention. I could hear the thundering feet of an animal, then a child appeared and sped past me down the path, quickly followed by a dog and his minders. I did not stop but advanced along the path, walking in the footsteps of many before me and a few hoof prints as well as the various paw prints of ecstatic dogs. It was quieter than when I had arrived; the people had drifted back home already – which I was soon to do, having absorbed the delights of a late afternoon stroll.