Yesterday was the most perfect Spring day – warm(ish) sunshine, clear skies, no wind – and so we, along with the rest of England, decided to check out Salcey Forest, near Milton Keynes. Fortunately, Sam and Rupert were having a loud argument in the car, so rather than follow the clear but boring (and obviously too quiet) directions of the sat nav, we ended up taking the scenic route which was unbelievably scenic. So scenic, in fact, that we couldn't help wondering whether this area of Buckinghamshire has been taken over by some hobbit-loving film crew and turned into some sort of “Olde Englishe Rustic Idyll.” Village after village of old stone houses, thatched or tiled with higgeldy-piggeldy, mossy tiles, stone-walled gardens bright with the nodding heads of daffodils and be-jewelled with primroses, crumbling bridges arching over chattering brooks, crooked pubs – The White Hart, The Swan, The Kings Head (yes, without an apostrophe, all ye grammar nerds.) The fields are all full of new-born lambs, long eared and gangly legs, their mothers standing over them, glaring at anyone who comes too close.
On arrival at Salcey Forest, our hearts sank rather, as the car-park was full and the grass verges (“Please Do NOT Park on the Grass Verges”) were lined with cars. But having come all this way, we were not to be deterred, so we parked on the grass verge and joined the chattering throng; big dogs, small dogs, dogs leashed and dogs unleashed, children of every shape and size and Disney costume, swerving around on their bikes, or whining and mud-covered, adults young and old, chavs and wellingtoned booted “Country People” - all come to enjoy the wilderness on this beautiful Spring day.
And within minutes, we had found ourselves on a lonely forest path, the only people in sight, the only sound the twittering and calling of a myriad birds, the suck of our boots in the mud, the crunching of twigs and rustling leaves. The air was full of the sharp green smell of fresh growth, the still-bare trees just beginning to bud and unfold tiny sprays of young leaves. How can one walk in a forest in England and not wonder if there is some truth to stories of fairies?
Well, quite easily as it turns out, but one can certainly see how such stories came about. The forest floor, carpeted in thick green moss and sprinkled with pale yellow primroses, beams of sunshine which filter through the branches, turning leaf litter to gold and deepening the shadows to mystery. There is nothing of the brutal, grab-you-in-the-guts beauty of the Australian Bush here – here there is a delicate beauty that makes your eyes sparkle and your imagination turn to the fluttering of wings and magic.
Next week, Rupert starts work in London and the children go back to school for the summer term. There is the possibility of a dog, work for me, a whole new phase of life starting all over again. I am apprehensive, but glad that we are finally able to get to the point where we can feel like we live here. Long may the glorious spring continue!