I leave Benhall after another good breakfast. I know I keep mentioning this but I have never been a breakfast person. Now I am awake at 5.30 most mornings, write my blog, and am ready for a big feast before setting out walking again. I feel I have found such a good rhythm for my days. I am tucked up and asleep well before ten.
I feel I have been wasting my days staying on up until after it has gone dark. The early morning energy is strong and focusing. Its also very beautiful this time of year.
I compliment farmhouse bed and breakfast host Carol on her fabulous shortbread and set out. It has been cloudy but now its warm and sunny.
In Ross I explore as I walk into the centre. I have followed the river in. Walking barefoot on the grass in the park that forms its edge. Uncompromising metal sculptures of mallards on high metal columns are the only blot. I am reminded that only those who promote themselves are given such commissions. The soft lively mallards on the river along with the regal swans full of their own beauty give lie to the almost warlike structure the sculptor has given his birds.
I look for an independent cafe with WiFi where I can upload my next blog. Along the way I see many examples of Ross being a prime example if how things are changing. Although I have heard from the transition group they are no longer in action I see maintained wild flower gardens full of butterflies and bees, fresh local produce for sale on stalls under the collonades of the central town hall, a shop to parallel Totnes’ own Greenlife, an independent mini market full of healthy eco products, and overhear a conversation on a street corner about shop closures and what must happen next. In a town where the man of Ross, John Kyrlie did so much to make the place attractive and for the community, out tree planting with his spade, and giving over land to make a public community garden back in the 1700s surely transition would be most welcome. I wonder what clashes of personality or difficult personalities have stopped the group’s progress.
I am hot under the sunshine in my trousers and seek a cafe to get changed in now in earnest.
The cafe I find is locally run and excellent. The Eleganza leave me in peace for nearly two hours to complete writing up my blogs, though I still cannot upload anymore for the android tablet I am using to compose them on does not have any obvious method for cutting n pasting onto another place. It has been by luck I have managed so far.
When I leave the cafe, wearing my summer skirt and basking in the beautiful sunshine, I am trying to work out from my OS map the usual conundrum of which is the road out of a town when the woman from the tourist information office comes out of her hidden away office to the street to give me directions. I take the river path for a few more short minutes then head for my favoured back lanes, the original roads out of towns.
All goes well till I take a little footpath which soon has me wondering around an industrial estate. I ask two people in the complex selling expensive cars and am shocked that they don’t know where they are. They travel in to work and mention of the next village means nothing to them. It is a travesty of our times that people should have so little sense of place that they don’t actually know where they are.
I manage to work out my bearings by asking where the road I am on leads and am told it goes to the roundabout and to the big main road, the opposite way to where I want to be. I backtrack return along the footpath and finally rejoin my lane. Now it is chilly and I pause to put on shorts beneath my skirt and cover my pack in its rain cover.
Off I go onwards and northwards, headed for Brockhampton. It is easy walking , quiet in mind and quiet in adventure. Then the clouds form and speckles of rain fall. I stop and put on my trousers once more and walk on with my raincoat on. I am constantly fascinated by how often weather actually changes when you walk all day.
In a tiny hamlet there are two benches and a grassy area designed for walkers to pause a while so I do. The only signs are to walkers, showing footpaths to neighbouring villages. I leave Foy behind and come to the gate house. It is old, derelict, and for sale. It stands in prime location on the river bank but there is no feeling of joy in this place. I wonder at that and walk on. It soon becomes obvious that this is a private estate and that once this may well have been a private driveway!
A mile or so back I met a farmer cutting the grass when I went of f the lane to enjoy the river from a footbridge. He is an amazing interesting man with a terrier that barks a lot but is friendly. He tells me it is fine to cross the bridge and explore to the left but not to go the right as the man is not friendly to walkers. I explain that I am taking no footpaths but following lanes, partly due to my fear of cows.
Don’t be scared
Is his advice. Never very helpful to be told this. It is not an emotion that can be commanded, but I know he means well.
Make yourself big, he says, and make a lot of noise . they are bovine, their nature is to flee. He himself apparently has frightened off both bulls and dogs in this way. I kn ow this advice works yet my voice doesn’t really carry that deep strong bellow a man is capable of.
We take leave of each other and the lane continues wending its way besides the river. Beyond the gatehouse there are signs telling walkers to keep to the designated route. I look on the map and see Perrystone house is up on the hill. Once over perhaps no one could enjoy this stretch of river. It is prime fishing country and I think of my dad. Still I do not like the feel of the place. It is imbued with unwelcome. Humans affect the landscape as much as every other creature and our emotional qualities are perhaps the strongest force we have, capable of rendering a place friendly or not.
I am almost at my destination now, a last few lanes to follow and the sun is coming back out. I am romanced by the name of the place I am to stay in; Ladyridge.I imagine grand views but there aren’t any. The farmhouse is hard to find and my host is not in when I ring her. Eventually I try a different lane and there it is. Three sandy coloured friendly goats come to greet me at the fence, I scratch their heads admiring their horns and soft noses.
Then I go into what would have been a farmyard, now it is home to birds, a peacock walks free, there is a large bathing pool for birds and several coops. I go round to the front door following visitor signs but no one is home.
I sit on the grass in the sun to wait, perusing my map for the onward journey. Then a loud barking tells me someone has arrived. A small terrier runs up to me, all eager to be friends . we get to know each other but no owner appears. The terrier seems as perplexed as me and we go together back to the door and I ring and knock. Inside I heard a woman and another dog. Still none one comes. I ring up and finally someone answers. Eventually she comes to the door and let’s me in.
The house smells of dog in every room. It is almost overpowering. A strange sensation for one like me with almost no sense of smell.
I have my husband in hospital
She says and I soften. This lady is slightly mad but a gentle friend my soul. She takes me to my room with a large double bed and asks what will I do for dinner. I look askance, she had said she would do dinner on the phone when I booked. She says there is a pub down the road. We look at the map and it two miles away up and down a steep hill. I say I will do without and have an early breakfast. She brings me a dish of fresh strawberries and I eat my picnic lunch provisions that I have accumalated over the days.
In an old book of poetry I find in my room I find the works, for children, of all the major poets. As ever they do not touch me,their emotions not felt fully enough for me. Only one, by a young girl, included as she won a competition, has power in it, the raw grace of true feeling for life; altar smoke by Rosalie grayer in Louis untermeyers golden treasury 1966. She writes with passion and humility, a rare combination.
In the final chapter words of wisdom “from the Persian”;
He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool, shun him
He who knows not and knows he knows not is a child teach him
He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep wake him
He who knows and knows that he knows is wise follow him.
I wake in the morn ng to blue sky and look some more at the marvellous painting in my room. Painted upon a black background is a jar of three perfect dandelions with wild green heart shaped foliage. Perfect symbol of this my walk.