At the start of spring, a variety of factors mitigated against walking for several weeks, including stringent ‘social distancing’ measures imposed due to the Coronavirus crisis. I had planned to go garlic-picking with a friend a few days before the lockdown, but as I felt unwell, I went into self-isolation for a week. Thankfully, it was the usual sinusitis, not Covid-19.ii
Phil and I eventually managed a foraging trip to Colden Clough on a gloriously sunny first Sunday of April. Approaching the Fox and Goose, we danced in the street, revelling in the novelty of hardly any traffic. We walked directly up Church Lane to the bridleway to avoid the playpark. From the higher vantage point, I could see that kids were using the swings although they were meant to be cordoned off. Now devoid of puddles, arid dust whirled beneath our feet as moss clung to saplings overhanging the edge. We encountered very few others enjoying their allotted outdoor exercise. A kind family stood back so we could overtake them. A couple waited patiently while we took photos of the rock art, now augmented to resemble a cairn.
Near Lumb Mill, vibrant yellow flowers glinted in the sunlight. The low level of Colden Water enabled Phil to clamber down to the sands for risky shots under the bridge – such a contrast to our visit only a month ago.
Checking the coast was clear, we scooted along the large paving stones and continued upwards onto rugged paths, stopping only briefly to admire clumps of white anemones, knobbly tree roots and the marble-effect tumbling waters below us.
On reaching the ‘garlic fields’, the unmistakeable smell of ransoms mingled with the ridiculously fresh air. Keeping well away from the path while picking, we soon filled two carrier bags with fresh green leaves. When two more foragers arrived, I took extra care to remain at a very safe distance. Alone again, we perched on rocks for a short rest as dry branches alarmingly crackled and thumped to the ground from the beech trees overhead.
We climbed the dry slope up to the top causeway, devoid of humans and animals apart from crows and curlews with their distinctive calls. Looking back, I spotted them swooping low in adjoining fields. At the familiar three-way junction, we rounded the ‘public garden’ and came to a lovely path, lined with twisty trees.
A picturesque wooden signpost confirmed the route down to Lumb Bank. Returning to the site of the mill, we found it slightly more populous, with some people harder to dodge than others. One family in particular obviously didn’t know what 2 metres looked like as they strolled along the path, oblivious to our attempts at avoidance; turning our backs and not breathing might have been a clue!
On Bridge Lanes, Phil nipped to the shop while I sped up the Cuckoo Steps. I managed a preliminary sort of the pungent garlic leaves and a hasty snack before totally flagging. While glad of the walk in proper fresh air further than the shop for the first time in weeks, it left me exhausted and achy for the rest of the day. Later that evening, the health minister threatened to ban outdoor exercise if people didn’t behave – I’d like to see how that pans out!
- My Journal of the Coronavirus: https://corvusdiaries.wordpress.com/