In the last blog post I mentioned the field I like which has a footpath burnished across the earth. Yesterday I went looking for more traces of movement in the landscape.
The route I chose was largely prompted by noticing that there was a footbridge over the busy A-road that I’ve been very wary of using other than by car. Being able to cross this line opened up a new patch of territory to me as someone travelling by bike.
I’m very glad of that footbridge, as I enjoyed the ride a lot more than the one I did a few days ago. Most of the time there was a strong sense of being up high and being aware of how the ground lies as it spreads out around you. The gorgeous sunshine probably helped too.
In an echo of the path near the Lodge, coming out of Cranford St John I found this footpath cutting across a field. Looking at the map now, the path intriguingly looks like it’s a continuation of what is now the road. Perhaps long ago there was a fork there, rather than a bend, and for some reason one tine gained precedence?
Wind turbines are a feature of the landscape around here, in that way that wind turbines are: clustered on hill-tops, kind of blending in, but also their slow, steady circles having an insistent, powerful presence. I usually encounter them at a distance, so when I see one close up, their size often takes me by surprise. Something something forces of nature something.
The wind seems to be ever present here, with so little to obstruct it. I only recently realised that the hedges and trees I begrudged for blocking the view from the Lodge were probably there as necessary protection. Even so, finding a spot to sit in the garden is a careful balancing act between sun, shade and wind chill factor.
In addition to the turbines, there are other signs of the wind being harnessed. There’s a gliding club airfield very close to where I’m staying, and windsocks dotted around the place. The most prolific users are probably the red kites though, and it’s fascinating to watch them as they perpetually switch allegiance between thermals and crosswinds, scouring the fields for prey.
Here’s a line that made me stop:
There was a similar one to it that I had passed over moments earlier, as I entered the village, but seeing another on the way out made me realise the significance of it being a boundary line. (Probably?)
I wonder if they are there as rural rumble strips to remind drivers to Please Drive Slowly, or whether they are performative in some way, with identities and jurisdictions given a hard edge? Has there always been a line there?
Further on in my journey I met with more assertive boundary lines, as my route took me through the Drayton House estate.
I’d seen from the map that there was a public right of way through the park, and from the satellite view it looked well surfaced, but it was marked up as a footpath and so I was still unsure as to whether I’d be able to cycle through the park when I got there.
That doubt didn’t last long.
Again I’m left wondering about the heritage of the footpath and the right of way …and how begrudgingly the estate observes it nowadays. The white signs above do quite a good job of obscuring the unassuming footpath sign behind them, and where walkers were directed to use gates, those gates were in turn obstructed by posts that would likely prevent wheelchairs or pushchairs from passing through. Handlebars took a bit of weaving but, as I pushed my bike through the park, I enjoyed the change of pace and the chance to look around me a bit more.
This appeared to be some sort of desire line path to a side gate. It seemed very transgressive given all the electric fences and authoritative signage surrounding it.
Back on my bike again, the last stage of my journey took me along the bridleway through the woods back to the Lodge. These tracks have me very focused on the ground in front of my tyres, picking my way between ruts, pot holes and branches, alternating between sides or sometime deciding it would be more prudent to bump up into the middle bit.
I’m starting to get my eye in to reading the road ahead a bit; spotting the overhanging briars and nettles ahead of time and, as here, recognising a corner with a lower side that gets the water and is therefore more worn.
Back at the Lodge I spent time in the (somewhat wind-sheltered) garden watching the red kites rastering across the freshly mown fields. I counted about 15 of them and was wondering how territories worked out, if they have their own patch of the field that they work, or if there’s a consensual distance apart that they respect.