Suggested audio: Isobel by Björk
In a forest pitch dark
Glowed the tiniest spark
It burst into flame
Craik Forest is a forest near Hawick in the Scottish Borders area of Scotland, and managed by the Forestry Commission.
I recently visited my dad up in the Scottish Borders and enjoyed a few days fuelling our mutual adventurous and impulsive nature exploring the town and watching bats each evening as we sat on deckchairs and slurped our coffee. Bats which dad thought were sparrows behaving strangely until I looked closer and pointed out their wing shape and incredible aerobatics. I pondered epileptic sparrows and giggled.
Before zooming back to London and my much missed husband the next day, I asked if there was any forest walks nearby. What a stupid question! There are around thirteen from what I can gather for many different walking abilities. We settled on seeking out Craik Forest which was seven miles to the south. Walking boots on, picnic packed and off we went. Oops, forgot the insect repellent and I foolishly blasted myself in Angel by Thierry Mugler.
The road getting there was beautiful. Single lane countryside lanes albeit full of roadkill and the occasional roadblock from docile sheep. The car slowly nudged forward until they got the message. Watch your foot on the accelerator, I mused, otherwise it’s a police call and a farmer’s loss of earnings. Finally a large wooden sign pointed us in the right direction. There were two car parks, one sign stating “Disabled Car Park” which made us laugh and wonder what happened to it. We pulled in and headed to the riverside picnic tables to fuel up. A nearby information sign showed three routes. Let’s go for the red route! An hour long going through dense woodland and hillside trails.
The aroma of pine, fir and damp peat hit me like Earnie Shavers’ single shot punch in the 1970s, it was that amazing. My freckled nose twitched like a rabbit’s as I was sure there was a hidden stream somewhere. We had an empty bottle ready to fill with nature’s resources. Contaminated with peat or not! I noticed how the twisted gnarly dense woodland was very much akin to the famous start of Disney’s Snow White (1937) and could almost feel the watchful eyes of woodland wildlife watching our every move. We laughed as we answered the call of nature hidden behind partially uprooted trees. If animals do it, so can we (don’t get me started on the urinating in the sea argument). We took countless photos of the expressive trees and then moved on.
Suddenly, a vast purple and white carpet of beautiful Scottish heather appeared wherein was a narrow furrow of muddy peat. Was my intuition about the hidden stream right? We pressed on and there it was! A trickle of mineral water tainted beige by the surrounding peat. We didn’t let a bit of peat bother us and immediately sunk to our knees to drink one of nature’s gifts. It was beyond refreshing, it seemed more chilled than refrigerated water and I filled up the empty plastic bottle I’d kept. I didn’t even notice I’d got my Merrell boots covered in mud but I’ll let the Gore-Tex worry about that. My walking stick was splattered with mud and water so I dried it on a nearby bouncy mound of moss. I used to love jumping on those as a kid in the woodland behind Bellsquarry in Livingston.
As we continued, we could hear the crackle of twigs from deep within the impenetrable mix of Fir and Pine. I imagined we were being watched with caution by rabbits and deer. Then I had an idea, a little movie!! I hit the video camera function on my mobile, all I could do as we were in a dead zone and appreciated the break from well-meaning digital interruptions. I pretended I was isolated in a Blair Witch Project scenario. I managed to pan the camera around almost 360 degrees to give the impression I was completely alone. I made a three part thriller which was good fun however I kind of spoiled each one by laughing at the end. I deliberately lagged behind so I could just be free. Wild and free, I thought of Reese Witherspoon in the biographical film Wild and pondered many life choices and situations. All beautifully healed simply by trudging along taking in the spectacular panoramic views and cool, crisp air. Nature can really help heal you as you put things into perspective and compartmentalise events. Like filing away a pile of books to their relevant shelves. Read it, reading it and recycle it.
As we all reached the cusp of the highest point, we negotiated our way down a muddy incline and was rewarded with a small waterfall and pool of ice cold water. Our knees got very muddy as we knelt down to take in handfuls but that’s all part of enjoying nature! The air was cool but the sun twinkled through the foliage as though it were a guiding light towards our goal. Further down the slope a large waterfall appeared almost out of nowhere and the Sharon trapped within my brain damage wanted to swim in the pool so much. An activity greatly enjoyed growing up and if someone is with me, I can still enjoy going into the sea. I reflected on the river bashing days and smiled to myself.
Dusk was beginning to settle so we realised we’d best hurry up! We found a pond surrounded by tall grasses and had scores of water boatmen dancing on the surface as though they were competing. I said to dad how the pond resembled the one in the Paul McCartney “Frog Chorus” song as featured in a Rupert the Bear cartoon. I still love that song! We then heard the unmistakable snarl of tractors. It was surreal, like we were suddenly in a Twilight Zone episode. The tractors were old models akin to the type dad drove when he did brief work on a farm. They were in the process of making square bales of straw and having lived on farm property in Seafield as a kid, the memories the flooded back were special for me too. After more photos were taken, our water depleted and intense itching from the midge bites later we arrived back at our poor Disabled Car Park. Later that evening after a hot shower with lavender shower gel, copious amounts of Volterol Gel on my hips and oral Naproxen, a large coffee and a documentary about bats, we all fell into our respective beds. We left our mobile phones alone and drifted off to sleep with a sense of calm and great satisfaction in achieving such a memorable walk bursting with memories.
I saw two badgers which would have been amazing… save for their rigor mortis!
© Copyright: Sharon Lawson™