Last Friday, I had occasion to go to Wymondham. This is an attractive market town, and lies south-east of Dereham, about sixteen miles. I was not going to see the nice part of the town, as I had to visit one of the industrial estates on the outskirts. My mission was to purchase some parts for the wood burner chimney assembly, in the hope of finally solving the problems we have had with it since installation.
It was a lovely day. Blue skies, and unseasonal warmth that allowed me to wear shorts. It was nice enough to lower the car window and I set off, listening to a local station on the radio. Once I had left Dereham, traffic was negligible. Heading out through Yaxham, past Yaxham Waters Holiday Park, I was surrounded by farms and fields, and with speed limits rarely more than fifty, I was able to take in the scenery, and enjoy the drive. I had chosen to take the winding ‘B’ road, and for much of the journey, I saw few other cars. I quickly passed through the small villages of Whinburgh, Garvestone, and Thuxton, some little more than hamlets. They must have problems with speeding traffic though, as there were many signs, stating ‘SLOW DOWN-CHILDREN PLAYING’, or ‘PLEASE DRIVE SLOWLY THROUGH OUR VILLAGE’.
Making the turn at the delightful village of Kimberley, I passed under old railway bridges, reminding me of a time when this area was better-served with local trains. Further on, I could see an enormous lorry coming towards me, on a very narrow stretch of road. We were not going to be able to pass easily, so I pulled into a farm gate recess, and flashed my lights, to tell him he should go first. As he slowed to pass me, he made sure that I could see his wave of appreciation, seconded by a hearty blast on his vehicle’s horn. This small incident could only happen in a place like this. Back in London, we would both have carried on, seeing who gave in first, or passing within a whisker, teeth gritted. On the last stretch of winding road before arriving at Wymondham, I reflected once again that I actually lived in this pleasant place. I wasn’t just visiting, this is where I dwell, and these are the places that I drive through.
On that sunny morning, with a sixteen mile trip accomplished, stress-free, in under thirty minutes, that was a good feeling.
This afternoon, still plagued by the back pain that I wrote about earlier this week, I was of a mind to have another decent walk with Ollie. Once on the move, as long as I don’t stand still too long, and get a few sit-downs along the way, it is manageable. I headed off on the familiar route, away from the meadow, and towards the large pig-farm. The sun was warm on the exposed areas near the blackcurrant orchards. These small bushes do not shield you from the elements, and provide no shade. The light breeze was amplified by the longs stands of trees fringing the fields. If you closed your eyes, you might believe that it was the sound of water rushing by, and not many leaves rustling. I noticed an unusual amount of red and black butterflies. They lifted from the path in advance of my footfall, their wings intertwining with those of others, as they flew off towards the bushes. I was also aware of the number of bees around. Not only workers busy on the beds of violet-coloured weeds in the verges, but huge bumblebees, as noisy as tiny motorcycles, and as big as my thumbprint.
Approaching the tin sheds of the open-air pig farm, I looked for the appealing gangs of piglets. They are older now, and though still tiny, were preoccupying themselves with bothering the huge sows for milk. If they failed to get their own mother to rise from her slumbers, they scuttled off to bother another sow, being told off with smacks from a large snout. The farmer has bulldozed a veritable mountain of manure into one area, forming a construction similar to the compounds seen on the news in Afghanistan. The last rains have left a fetid lake inside this mound, and the combination of this, and the smell from the manure, has attracted a lot of small flies. I decided to push on, to the Rabbit Field, so Ollie could try to chase some bunnies. It was not living up to its name today though. No long-eared residents were visible, and I saw a bird of prey hovering above, which no doubt accounted for their absence. I decided to cross the Holt Road, and revisit a walk from last summer.
It proved to be a good decision. Entering the path behind Gingerbread Corner, at the rear of the pretty cottage that gives the junction its name, we soon saw lots of rabbits, both in the woodland, and on the fields to the left. Ollie was off, chasing enthusiastically, oblivious to the couple in the parked car, who had no doubt sought romantic seclusion. No sooner had Ollie lost the trail of one rabbit, another appeared, and he was off again. Around the bend in the path, we came across the ‘deserted’ farm. This group of buildings around a substantial farmhouse appear to have been abandoned. The barn roof is almost gone, and weeds grown inside the store-rooms. An old broken bath and toilet are dumped unceremoniously just inside the small barn, and the nearby field seems, to my untrained eye at least, to be untended. There are signs that someone might still live there though. Broken glass in a lean-to has been boarded with wood, and the grass on the drive approaching the house has been cut short. In two of the upper windows, curtains are fitted, and the wheelie bin contains refuse for collection. I cannot imagine living in such style, in a house and land with so much potential.
I crossed the small country road, and took the path south-east, towards the back of Dereham, and the cemetery. This is overgrown, but has a good flat walkway, and I can cover a lot of ground this way. Ollie stopped for a drink at a remarkably clear-looking puddle, and we continued on to the end. The next option would have been to cross a busier road, and pick up the path across fields, to Swanton Morley. But we had been out a long time, and still had to retrace all our steps. By the time we got back, Ollie was hot and tired, and I was weary. We had walked around seven miles, in just under three hours. Allowing for a couple of stops, and a lot of contemplation, I didn’t think that was at all bad. In all that time, I only saw one other person, but lots of birds and insects, dozens of rabbits, and one very happy dog.
I must conclude that a rural life is a good one, and I really do appreciate it.