So we come to Anderwood where the tall Scots Pines reach up to eternity. We have come to watch the love of my life as once more she begins to prepare herself for her long sleep. We have eyes only for her as she goes about her bedding ritual.
A mattress of coarse bracken has she laid upon the earth and now begins to quilt it with the first dry leaves that tumble down in the early autumn winds.
The deciduous trees remain green for a little longer yet, reaching out to the last days of the sun, imploring him to stay about the Forest a little longer. But he will decline, that sun, for he is a
travelling man, a wanderer upon the face of the earth. He bestows his favours for but a season before moving on to coat other lovers with his joy. Soon he will flee across the sky and my love will wind the winds around her silence to await the coming of the frosts which call her to sleep.
We make our way up towards the Bolderwood Grounds, skirting the edge of the
North Oakley Inclosure. We cross Blackensford Brook at the ford where interventions control the flow of the water.
We prefer our flow less overtly controlled, as does the brook down below the ford, where we descend via Smoky Hill to cross back near Woolfield Cottage.
They are solitary, these Forest cottage dwellers and their dogs warn of our impending arrival long before we pass their high fences. “Pass on,” they bark, you are not wanted here.” They too have been seduced by the love of my life and we do not interrupt their solitary nuptials.
Back at Anderwood we observe the empty car park and the unattended barbecue tables that you can hire by dialling 0300 067 4601, if you can hear, of course. But the tourists have all gone home and we have no desire to char the flesh of the once living.
Sleep safely my love. When the snow lies upon your curving uplands like burial mounds, we will walk your leafless lanes and wonder only where the woodpeckers sleep beside you.
We return to the car and re-join civilisation at the A35, marvelling that we are just two minutes away from a place where we have walked for two hours and seen no one. Then we proceed to an altogether more populated car park at Lyndhurst, which styles itself ‘the capital of the New Forest.’ Lyndhurst would seduce us with its Tourist Information Centre and Forest Museum. We have fallen for their charms many times before but today we are having none of it. We make directly for Costa where the unique blend of Arabica beans temps us to falling once more. We are easily separated from our £3.90 in exchange for a cup of coffee so large it has two handles to hold it, accompanied by two slices of brown buttered toast. We note with fleeting interest our own preference for cremated bread over charred flesh.
We work on ‘Bonding;’ not the activity, you understand, but the new short story we are writing. When Matt has had enough he shivers pathetically to indicate his distaste for Costa, then recovers remarkably quickly as I make ready to leave. Back in the car park we check out the Community Hall which is advertising its coming Teddy Bear Fair. We decline attendance, leaving others to bond over teddies. As we turn to leave we are approached by Jan, whose job it evidently is to empty the car park waste bins. We express profound gratitude to Jan and her colleagues, for what would our Forest look like without someone to do their job? She falls for Matt instantly, seducing him with a solitary dog biscuit. He is as fickle as the waning sun. As they bond, in defence of my relationship with my dog I proffer a book mark promoting our book. Jan is smitten and wants a copy immediately. I return to the car to procure one. She is delighted when I offer to sign it for her. We wave to her as we drive from the car park, observing that she walks a little taller than when we first saw her. We have evidently been as important in her day as she has in ours. Perhaps in her next lifetime she will be a tall Scots Pine, tempting the sun to stay a little longer in Anderwood.