Tag Archives: walking

The walks and wanders between April 1 – May 14, 2018. Or – where have I ended up?

The long introduction

I want to write this down so I would have it. But already I do not have the correct form or the correct style. I will write this only for myself, not keeping my 10 readers in mind, yes, only for me.

It is for those days when I feel like I’m stuck, like I can’t get out enough or when I do not get out enough but it is all for a chosen good.

It is Monday, 14th of May. Since the beginning of April, I have been out. I really have. Here is proof:

Hiking the South West Coast Path in Cornwall, England: 09–12.04

A surprise trip to Paris: 13–15.04

A London LOOP walk – 18.04

Hiking the Eden Valley Trail from Hever to Leigh in Kent, England: 19.04

Spring travels in Alsace: 25.04–02.05

A hike in Schwarzwald, Germany: 28.04

A day out to Hara Gulf, Estonia: 06.05

Family trip to Istanbul: 09-13.05

Wanders in the Pääsküla wetlands reserve: 14.05

Isle of Skye visit with friend: 24-27.05

In April, I walked 244.16 km. From May 1 to midnight of May 14th, I walked 140.02 km. So the last 1.5 months have brought me more than 380 km worth of proper wanders.

I wanted to do this in sections. Write down bits from each walk but it all became a burden. There are too many lists and rules I have made for myself that perhaps are slowly starting to lose their meaning. Other things have taken their place. And although I love, love, love writing about my hikes and walks, and keeping my analogue hiking diaries and tracking some distances, it is this blog that has started to feel like a burden. Perhaps it is because I have made it a rule to update it at least once a month. Or perhaps it is because I am writing a travel book (and have my book deal to prove it!), so I already have a lot of real travel writing happening as well. But mostly it is because the format is just not suitable. To write long-form, readable, witty and perspective articles takes weeks of time, and since my blog is not in my TOP 20 priorities, I will not take the time to keep it. But I still, somehow… like it. It is clumsy and dirty and gets away with fever lies.

I think this is just me trying to apologise to myself for cutting down on some extra stuff that I have made myself do. But the cutting down is good. And it is mostly because something happened last month.

The month of magical thinking

One day, when traveling in Alsace, we asked an old lady in a mountain cheese farm (mmm, Munster) why her dog only had one eye. “Aaah, the cat”, she said. And then she cut us more cheese.

And took us to see her cows. And a young cowling (yes, this word, what about it) licked my hand and her tongue was long and soft and lasso-like in its purple splendour.

“Spring is a vigilant time,” the old cheese woman said. “The wild boars and deer come to eat my rose buds. One day, I would like to take revenge on the village people down there, I don’t like them. I would like to catch a wild boar and take it down to their village so it would eat all their rose buds instead.”

And off we drove, our hands full of packages of delicious delicious cheese, with the cheese cutting grandmother waving at us, and the husky having gone into hiding.

Later, in the same day, I understood that the last time I felt inspiration was 4 years ago. In 2014. Around the time we were in Greece. Somewhere in the early summer. The second thing I understood was that inspiration physically feels like a very concentrated form of LSD. But not just a random drug trip but like a trip with a very clear goal that sucks you into it. Hence the concentration.

I was standing in front of a twirling metal OVERT (Open) sign next to an old winery on Monday, April the 30th, and that’s when I felt it, and that’s when I understood it. That very moment I also understood that I have not had more than 2 weeks off (in a row) for at least 14 years. And this is not normal. So I decided to take entire the September off and not put ANYTHING into my calendar. I have an entire summer to work towards it, so I think that it doable. But since these past weeks have shaped so many ideas already, I am beginning to feel like I don’t even need the month off. But I do. The main goal of that month is to discover what type of new ideas have I been nurturing over all those years. And what are the fresh thoughts that will come. I want to feel what my brain comes up with when it is not under a constant (yet ever so pleasurable) pleasure (yes!) to meet the deadlines for copywriting, house renovating, book publishing, travel writing, mountain training, etc., etc.

And I learned that there was a French Tour de France cyclist who always waited for others on top of a mountain because he was afraid to go down alone.

Out of France

On May 3rd I flew to Tallinn through Helsinki. I was asked to speak at a conference, and I did. The conference focused on the performative aspects of space, and had speakers from different disciplines and backgrounds: architects, mathematicians, sound designers, actors, etc. I talked about journey design for various user journeys, and how to create journeys and advetures in different fields and for different purposes. And flying over Finland is a happy thing on a sunny day because all the lakes reflect black the clouds like artistic graves with mirrors in them. There is another type of peace in the Finnish airspace, almost eerie. Something that makes you dream on ancient places.

And as soon as the conference was done, my friend took me to an ex Soviet submarine demagnetizing station. Submarines become magnetised when traveling around, I did not know that. So every now and then they need to be taken out of the water in order for them not to turn into mine magnets. There were lots of abandoned buildings in those forests (but there are loads of those left in Estonia, all from the Soviet days), lots of bird song and lots of moss. I asked my friend to stop the car on our way back. And to wait for me. I ran into the forest and listened to the raven and to the cuckoo and to some little fellas whose names I have no knowledge of. And the sun shone on the blueberry leaves and the moss invited me to stay. I can’t remember the last time I slept in a forest. Mountains, camps, swamps, etc. – yes. But not the forests. But this time the forest was calling my name.

Other strange things happened during this trip. Currently I feel like bringing an adventure journey I have been developing for 12 months to Estonia, and start from there. I feel like working with directors and actors, and in such a pure form, I have never ever felt it. And this feels funny. And light.

I flew back to London today – Monday, 14th of May. It was an evening flight, so I had the morning to myself. I took the cab (yes, I know, the environment) to my childhood bus stop and started walking. Soon I was standing by the first spring that I ever discovered. The water was still bubbling and it felt good. (Gods, I’m getting old.) The next place that I reached were some hills that felt like huge mountains when I was growing up. There were a couple I never dared to ski down from. And I walked up and down all of them today. “I can’t believe how small I have been”, was all I could think of. I really have been that small. But it was not a nostalgic visit. It was a courtesy one. I don’t know exactly how my plans will work out, but I do have my mind set on a dream mountain that stands 6000 m tall. My schedule-based training starts tomorrow. So there was an inner purpose to this visit that I had not been aware of.

I looked around in the wetlands that I took possession of as a kid, calling them my kingdom, dragging all my friends into forests and swamps until their parents started telling them off for being friends with me. I did not go on any of my old trails. My kingdom was given a nature deserve status about five years ago, so now it feels all different. There are wooden board walks and signs in the ground. But back in the day you had to know. And I still know where the rest of it is, constantly changing, constantly growing. Luckily, the board walks only spread out in one specific direction. All the rest is still out there, someone else’s kingdom, someone else’s peat coloured days with the May cuckoos singing their time in the pine forest background. And that makes me happy.

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New river. Old course. Walking the LOOP, 2/24: Cockfosters to Enfield.

Name: London Outer Orbital Path

Walk: 2 of 24

Route: Cockfosters to Enfield Lock (section 17)

Date & Distance: Tuesday, 25.04.2017; 18.2 km

Fellow walkers: K. & M.

The second walk from our series was framed by field edges. (This is not even a pun. Framed by edges… Ah, never mind.) When our first walk was formed by bench and forking path descriptions, then this one was definitely all about following the fields. Which is not bad, you know. I can definitely think of a worst thing than walking next to a field on a cool yet sunny day!

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Section 17 took a bit of time, although it was not very long and did not feel very long either. Once again, we chose the sunniest day of the week and hit the road. Arriving at Cockfosters was strange. Strange in a way reaching a final destination on yet another tube line is. It did not take long for the car parks to end and greener parks to start. Also, it still had not rained in London by that time. It was getting close to 5 weeks.

There was a lot of green happening that day. A lot. Spring is getting properly ready to turn into summer soon. With the blue skies in the background, it was a lot like walking around in alternative versions to Windows’ desktop wallpapers. K. also knows that you can use a word meaning “greener than green” in Turkish in occasions just like this.

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It was a walking day which did not enwrap me (or possibly us three?) in anything impossibly magical, but gave us many small surprises that were sweet in their own everyday way:

  • little fresh oak leaves
  • ivy-smothered forest signs in Enfield
  • cherry blossoms on the grass (up to this point I had only seen them on pavement)
  • the Railway Inn of Enfield that plays opera and smells of old cigarettes
  • two women nailing “Missing: Rooney” posters on trees (Rooney was a parakeet, there was also a photo)
  • the sweetest sign post, saying “New river. (Old course.)”

This one got me thinking. Life, literature and philosophy are brimming with the idea of the opposite: old river, new course. You know, the idea that you can always turn a new page however tired or alienated you have become. There’s also the idea of the opposite of this opposite – old course, new river – meaning that some things get discovered over and over again throughout our lives, in different situations. But new river, old course, exactly in this order, contains something devastatingly romantic, if not even unforgiving. It seems to either hint (in the unforgiving version) that life has certain patterns or ways of influencing us which no one can escape, no matter which century we’re living in – or – that were there has once been life, there will be life again (the romantic version). What I don’t like about this sign, however, is how it seems to rob the one who is living (the new river) from any other options. In a way, it almost makes it not trust itself, without even giving it an option.

And this is also the reason why I finally need to take a month off work for the first time in my life. Because I am so tired that I get offended by forest signs.

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When England gets DRY –> Epping Forest (Chingford, 09.04.2017).

Life is out there,  and I celebrate it, quietly

The older I get, the more I like spring. With every year. It was the only season I never noticed in my 20s. In my 30s, springs come with a sense of relief.

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Entering the Epping Forest in Chingford.

On Sunday, 9th of April, me and my lover set our course to Epping Forest (of the Chingford area). We had been there once before and we both remembered it for its luscious magical properties. READ: tense green foliage with foxes jumping onto forest glades and butterflies circling the air. The last and only time we visited this area, we walked out of it mesmerised and refreshed.

For the record, I don’t know Epping Forest very well. So far, I’ve been to:

  • Epping Forest in Chingford
  • Epping Forest in Epping
  • Epping Forest near Whipps Cross
  • Epping Forest in Aldersbrook (across the Wanstead Flats in E7)

Of these forest areas, the Chingford one was the fairy tale one, the Epping one the muddy one, the Whipps Cross one the wormhole one (you can end up where you started while thinking you have just reached the other shore of the lake) and the Aldersbrook one the cultural looking one.

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Silent walking made impossible by all the leaves on the forest floor.

Choking on expectations

But this time, Epping Forest was different. That’s because the spring is uncommon. How? It has not rained for weeks. For WEEKS. In England. In Spring. In London. On top of that, on that particular Sunday, I was not walking with my mind really at peace, so my steps were not always in the present but also falling into past memories and expectations of the forest. I think it was the only time I have expected the forest to be something. To show me something. To give me something. (How funny and stupid is that?)

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Life pressing through forest shadows.

But forests teach you good lessons. When you go looking for foliage magic, you will end up inside the landscape of Arizona. When you go looking for foxes, you’ll barely spot a squirrel. When you want to find moist moss, you end up staring at cracks in the dead bark. What is this, spring of death?!

Relaxing into it

There was nothing left to do than to give into the half-lifeless state of it. And just like any good story or a well-built moral structure would suggest – as soon as we accepted the New Arizona, bits of life started revealing itself to us. We even found grass to sit on.

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There is no moral to this sotry. Apart from not to expect things, from people or from nature.

Memories of Madeira: 13 reasons for a summer visit

It was June. I travelled to Madeira with KJ, another dramaturge from Estonia who has an eye and a tooth for faraway places.

I’ll be honest – I only spent a week in Madeira. I have not hiked all of her levada trails, climbed all of her highest peaks or swam in all of her waves. But I have done portions of all of that.

Madeira makes you feel welcome. The atmosphere in here is so relaxed that every thing that your brain decides to distinguish gets interpreted as a greeting just for you. Maybe it’s that cute mongrel that is wagging its tail? Or maybe it’s that passionfruit mousse that has your first and (secret) middle name whipped into its fluffiness?

So, what are the ways Madeira greets you with even when you just have a week to explore?

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1.The lounging rooftop dogs.

You know how cats usually rule lots of Mediterranean (or generally warm) towns? And how they can be seen curled up in flower pots and sunbathing on window sills? Madeira has dogs sleeping on shed and house roofs with their snouts hanging over the edge in the warm wind.

2. Never-silent lizard steps.

There’s an endemic lizard species on Madeira that can be seen everywhere. No, really, everywhere! Which means that the bushes and shrubberies are never silent. Whether walking in the interior of the island or passing flower beds in town parks, the constant littil rustling never stops.

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3. Peaceful-looking ocean waves that still throw you onto the smooth but painful rocks.

In here, is better to jump in from a deeper place than try to approach the ocean on foot as you’d do on the shores of the Baltic Sea, for example. (You can trust my words or trust my bruises.)

A positive side to this is the sound of the receding waves over large pebbles and rocks. They sound like a rave where DJs play sped-up ice cracking recordings.

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A spa built around a volcanic beach. The softest place to swim.

4. Blossoms. Everywhere.

Everything that can blossom, blossoms. The nickname ‘The Island of Eternal Spring’ really holds true. And if you haven’t breathed in the white Angel’s trumpets’ blossoms yet, you’re lacking a drug-like experience which will change your life forever. (Only a slight exaggeration.)

One man’s front yard really can be the other man’s botanical garden.

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5. The demon ducks (?).

I mean, there are birds in the wide levadas that reach the ocean in different towns across the island that sound like demonic dog toys.

You can’t see the birds for the lush vegetation, but the sounds bear a resemblance to the common duck. Just be warned.

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No demon duck pictured.

6. The post-rain eucalypt trees.

Yes, they smell nothing like pines. And they also look slightly magical. And being amongst those trees does feel like your lungs are getting clinically cleansed by a forest dentist.

7. Scarecrows of all sorts.

You will see the human lookalikes and the classic tin can men, but you’ll aslo see figures designed out of wood blocks shaped like bones. (Check point 5 again?)

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8. Views from higher than cloud nine.

The highest part of the island lies away from its shores. For a superb view of mountain tops covered in clouds, head to Achada fo Teixeira in Santana. Only this is enough to give your horizons a stretch, but from here you can go for a pleasant hike to the top of Madeira’s highest peak, Pico Ruivo (1862 m). (It’s the descent at the other end of the trail that takes a bit more time.)

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9. The rise of the vertical forest.

They say that Estonia is 50% covered in forest. The percentage must reach 85% in Madeira. (Actually, 85% of the island is a national park.) The shape of the landscape (let’s just say it: the mountains!) also offers you either Alpine or near-Hawaiian views. Many mountains in one, as they say.

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10. Dolphins, dolphins, dolphins!

It will not be a beer commercial or an overpaid nature cruise. You just take literally any of the boat trips from Funchal’s harbour area and spend the next hours floating away on the Atlantic ocean, jump in if you want to, and of course, – seeing those littil friends come and accompany your boat for awhile. The spotted kind followed us, but there are others. (Ok, I’ve never seen dolphins in an ocean before, I’m still so so happy about this!)

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11. Eye-catching sculptural works.

You know how in Europe you often come across the following sculptures: men on horses, a couple with one of the people lying in the other’s arms, little children wrestling fish and/or peeing, or men wearing funny hats while looking serious?

Not in Maderia. Here you see (a lot!) larger-than-life-size cogs and conveyor belt pieces, angels with fallen heads stranded in mid-air between apartment blocks or 2D farmers hugging 2D cows.

A very welcome addition to the first list, as I see it.

12. The Airport.

If you’re afraid of flying (I used to be), don’t look it up. Even if you already know that it has a motorway and a little boat harbour under its runway and that the latter * used * to be the shortest in Europe, just don’t look it up.

However, if you do like side-wind landings, this is your party time. (Only if you land on a blustery day, of course.)

13. Parasols made of palm tree branches on urban beaches.

Some of the parasols are older, so their branches are withered.(The branches are probably taken from the banana plantations, but I could be wrong.) And when the wind blows, they rustle in that classic tropical manner. And this is amazing, although it can probably feel like a catalogue-ordered amazement. I have never heard a withered palm tree branch rustling over me on a beach, though.

I’m from the north. All this is magic.

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More lessons from the Lea Valley Way, April style.

 

So, what will actually happen when I finish the Lea Valley Way? Will there be a tiny deluge or will the river itself disappear? (No, no one is suffering from illusions of grandeur in here, no one.)

Lea Valley Way is the 50-mile long-distance walking route following the River Lea from its birth spring in the suburbs of Luton to the Thames near Limehouse.

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It can be pleasantly walked in 4 days or so the Internet says. When I was planning to walk it in one go last summer, there was only one proper description of all stages available online.

I’ve walked the Lea Valle Way:

Lea Valley Walk, Stage 1 / 17.07.2015 / ~ 36 km; read about that stupidly lucky walk here

Lea Valley Walk, Stage 3 / 19.07.2015 / 23 km

Lea Valley Walk, Stage 4 / 26.09.2016/ 7.9k km

– And on 16.04. 2016, S-L, G and I set out to do the Lea Valley Walk, Stage 2 (25.9 km)

Stage 2 of the walk stretches from Hatfield to Broxbourne. By all accounts it should be pleasantly doable in one day, during the warmest sunlight hours. “I can’t believe I’m finally finishing it today!” I told my lover, my friends and my housemates when leaving for that last stretch that Saturday morning.

The first half of the walk was cloudy, but after leaving Hatfield behind and lunching in Hertford, the skies lit up and our step got faster. (Sadly, G actually had to go home, since his foot had managed to seriously convince him it was too exhausting to move.) I also witnessed my goldenest golden hour during this stage of the walk. Everything was going brilliantly.

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Lea Valley Walk, from Hatfield to Broxbourne. Hertfordshire, England, April 2016.

We continued on, following the lovely water. The darkness had long-ago fallen when S-L and I reached Dobb’s Weir – a location separated from the Broxbourne train station by a few kilometers. Finishing the Lea Valley Way was going to happen tonight. Suddenly, all the tiredness was gone from my legs as we started to cross the canal (the river has been directed into a canal around those parts already), I could clearly imagine reaching the station within the next half an hour and… and… and… The road was closed. Blocked (even cordoned off, maybe?; can disappointment also create false memories?) off by a large road works sign. Somewhere not far off in the darkness we saw the orange working lights of the industrial vehicle. But. Not all was lost yet!

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I dashed off to talk to a security man. And yes, all types of roads were closed. However, he directed us to a path in the forest which would take us straight to Broxbourne train station. So we entered the dark forest-like area with the help from the flashlights on our dying phones. We walked to the railway (“When you’ve reached the railway, you’ve gone too far,” the man had also said). Upon then retracing our steps we found the path. Also to be blocked off.

And we decided to call an end to our day.

I asked for local cab numbers but the security van gave us a lift to the train station. (Reminder to self! Always carry chocolate around to give to nice people!)

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*

I still have roughly 3 km to finish, which I will do at some point this year. How else can I ever say that I’ve followed an entire river, right?

Lessons learned:

1) Never underestimate a journey;

2) If destination becomes a goal the journey will lose a bit of its magic;

3) Passing a race track in the dark makes you feel like a character in a James Bond movie;

4) Trips can be undertaken that take you to a beginning of a journey which itself is actually shorter than the trip to get there. (Which part of the journey is the real journey? she asks in an ominous voice.)

My dear and much-esteemed last kilometers of the Lea Valley Way,  I’m coming to find you in 2016.

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The embodied philosophy of London fog

It is getting close to the end of 2015. Since all types of endings are either bigger or smaller borderline rites, they need some sort of celebration. If not celebrating, than just being noted. Noted and noticed.

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The two first days of November marked a new beginning for the last stretch of the year. Those were the days when London became covered, smothered and embraced by its famous fog. As a rather young Londoner, I’ve seen my share of fogs in here, but never anything like that. Never a carpet of fog that would last for 48 hours.

 

I spent most of the waking time within those 48 hours walking the Wanstead Flats and part of the Epping Forest. Sometimes alone, sometimes with my lover, sometimes with a bigger group of people.

During those hours, each meter of the Flats was turned into a playground I had never encountered before. I knew I was not there on my own, yet every time when the fog revealed yet another person, the glimpse of a human figure arrived as a soothing realization of not being alone. In that sense, fog is like philosophy. It reveals that you are not alone in the space you are inhabiting. Not often does philosophy take physical shape in such a grand manner.

Of course, everything becomes ridiculously romantic in this type of ephemeral, temporary landscape. From photographing strangers exiting a white wall to trying to decipher where the sitting heron ends and the tree branch starts. And then trying to decipher whether it was a heron at all and what became of the strange man squatting on the lake shore.

Fog Philosophy would make for a gorgeous essay collection subject. The collection would touch on topics of accidental holiness and patches of ground created for dancing and dancing only. It would speak of the ritual joining of the visible and invisible space, of depth, about the landscapes of air and of walking into possibilities. In this type of world, mythologies would become the everyday.

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Wanstead Flats, London. November 2015.

 

Ashdown Forest: the bats, owls and mists of Samhain

On the last day of October, a small group of us set out from London Victoria on a train to East Grinstead. From there, we a took a bus to get closer to a certain forest. I did not carry a camera this time, so all the pictures posted today are in courtesy of Mr Rainer S.

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Ashdown Forest is located in East Sussex, on the the highest sandy ridge-top of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. When not knowing where to go, you can spend a bit of time wandering in rather civilized areas before fully reaching it.

At the start of our walk, we sauntered along an old railway track for a while (oh, how it really, really reminded me of the Ayot Greenway trail between Wheathamstead and Ayot St. Peter! –> my unplanned detour that shaped the real outcome of my Lea Valley Walk’s first day this summer: the road where I started limping and the reason I got stuck on a field of beans (the full story is here). After the old railway and some nibbles on the roadside, we decided to go and find the Poohsticks Bridge (a famous bridge from a famous children’s book) and wave the houses good-bye.

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Having easily found the bridge after a bit of walking next to fields and across them, we crossed it together with some horses (or donkeys in disguise?) and finally found ourselves in the beginning of the forest.

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There were leaves, everywhere. There should be special word for the way leaves smell on the autumn forest floor before the the first night colds. Hopefully, at least one of the languages has it. On the small paths, on the soon-to-be naked trees, in the creeks that had to be crossed and between the mythic looking ferns – the leaves where everywhere, bringing with them the feeling of carelessness known to people before they reach the age of 20.

Ashdown Forest needs time. In order to fully roam around there, a day is probably not enough. At least not in the season when the light starts fading rather early. But in our case, the day almost was enough. It left all of us with that bitter-sweet taste of wanting more, just an hour, two or tree more or time, yet not making us feel as if we had not had any time at all.

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We wandered deeper into the forest when noticing that the sunset was a mere two hours away. The plan was to go as deep as possible and then find our way back to civilization again.

This was the happiest I had been that entire week. Thinking about it now, October was a deeply happy month on all levels. (See, how I just avoided at least a one worthy mountain pun!) October was also a month that started and ended with a walk. As every month should, I say.

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Walking in Ashdown was calming and exciting at the same time. A small practice in zen, a small exercise of looking at the leaf patterns. The ferns rustled although there was almost now wind. When we got deeper into the forest we met no other people.

After the clear and sunny day, the darkness started to gather fast. The bats came out and the owls started hooting.

Only when the tongues of mist started crossing our road did we understand that all the sheep we had seen during the day had been black.

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More owls started to hoot.

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And more trees appeared that looked like they had been brought here from the 19th century. (Probably that’s the last time they did have leaves, when I think of it.) The darkness fully took over when we had walked through the mists and encountered our last flock of black beasts. This was pitch dark countryside darkness, the proper kind where you forget that cities exist. And in the middle of it, someone found a pub with a living fire. I can’t remember who but I’m very grateful to him or her. I would have taken that window for someone’s living room.

But things shouldn’t be too easy. And because life doesn’t want you to miss out on all the possible courses for one day, we had to leave that beautiful coziness quite soon and step into the deep darkness to make our way to the bus stop.

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No street lights, no house lights, no moon light. Just the stars, the occasional passing cars and the hope that the bus would come, not miss us or not run as over.

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More owls hooted. The old church spire was still there, probably looking as pastorally perfect as it had done in the fading light. More owls. More darkness. The most simple Samhain evening one could wish for.

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