Deer and wild garlic

diana nick ashridge 124Monday morning I was back at work. Except, my guest was still with me and so I was still on holiday…and, appearances aside, much of the holiday too had been work, though of another kind. My job is my son… life has a tendency to be a bit blurred round the edges sometimes. I am lucky, very lucky… I love my work, both the paid and the unpaid. On both counts I am in service to love and there is no better master. So Monday was a day of resting for my guest after the haring around the countryside while I caught up with my son, both as Mum and as servile house-hobbit. I also retrieved an ecstatic small dog from her minders and spent some time inevitably playing ball. The evening was simply spent at the excellent Indian restaurant in the village.

diana nick ashridge 009Tuesday my guest came to work with me. She and my son had met last year, of course, but had really had little time. On the other hand, social media has allowed them to get to know each other a bit better in the interim so I left them to talk while I got on. They were still talking when I’d finished, and that showed no sign of abating for the next few hours. In the end I bundled the pair of them into the car and took them to the Bell for a late lunch… a quiet, village hostelry once famous for providing guests like Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Jackie Kennedy with a hideaway. We took the long way home, through pretty villages like Dinton, where we stopped to look at the magnificent doorway of the church, some 800 years old and the remains of the old cross, weather-worn and eroded in the churchyard.

diana nick ashridge 090Wednesday we had arranged to go out together for the day and the weather continued to oblige us with sunshine. We headed off to the Ashridge Estate to play in the woods. First, of course, we had to fortify ourselves, and the humungous jam and cream scones there are enough to fuel a small army. We had one each. Of course.

diana nick ashridge 083Next we borrowed a golf buggy from the National Trust as I didn’t fancy my chances pushing a wheelchair through the woods. Nick took a trial run at driving it, but graciously ceded the wheel to Diana, rather spoiling the effect by pointing out he would be wanting to take photographs every couple of minutes. Which, of course, is precisely what he did… which allowed the little hobbit trotting along behind to not only keep up, but even overtake occasionally. For me the highlight of that trip was the shot I got of Diana, bent over the wheel, being used as a tripod….

diana nick ashridge 062The woods are beautiful. Largely beech woods that were recently carpeted with bluebells. There were occasionally patches where the blue lingered, but great swathes of wild garlic starred the green shade as we followed the pathways through the trees. There was bugle and cuckoo pint too, buttercups in the meadows and the hawthorn and chestnuts in bloom. Sycamore seeds dangle from the branches, hazelnuts cluster around them and there are birds singing in the canopy. Even a cuckoo. A fox pranced through the spring green and in the fields below, where the trees parted to allow a view across the Vale, herds of deer rested in the sun. Zooming in on the pictures I can see the budding horns of the youngsters who, even from that distance, were watching the watchers.

diana nick ashridge 042We were reluctant to go back when our time with the buggy was up, pushing our time to the limits to see as much as we could. In the end Diana turned back, put her foot down and disappeared into the distance while I made my way back through a verdant wonderland alone. I could understand the pleasure the pair of them had in their drive… it isn’t easy to get out in the woods when the body no longer wants to play as much as the mind. I have a feeling Nick and I will be going back. You don’t think about the fact that a wheelchair can’t go offroad, that getting out into nature alone is something completely different from seeing it from car or sidewalk, or with someone pushing you along. Whether through injury, illness or simply age there are many who cannot enjoy simply being alone in the green horizons and leafy halls.

diana nick ashridge 159So when we had driven through the woods to see Ashridge House, and parked where there were a pair of deer feeding close enough for the camera, squirrels playing and where a red kite sailed up from the ground too quick for the lens, I drove to Ivinghoe Beacon and parked the car where we could see across to the Dunstable Downs and the great, chalk cut figure of the Whipsnade Lion. There is no way to get the lightweight wheelchair across the grass, so, being the right height for Nick to use, we did something we have not done before. We walked across the grass together, down to a gate where he could see across the valley, surrounded by green and the flowers of the hawthorn trees. And I left him there.

diana nick ashridge 164I left him and walked away, looking back from the top of the rise, through a mist of tears, to see my son standing alone and surrounded by beauty.

diana nick ashridge 181

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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10 Responses to Deer and wild garlic

  1. ksbeth says:

    what a beautiful view of your son amidst all the beauty )

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Éilis Niamh says:

    Though I can’t pretend to understand the challenges facing someone who can’t walk with respect to offroading in nature, I really can empathize with how difficult it might be. I am blessed that I have friends who will camp and walk out in the woods with me. Being totally blind, I can’t go out into the woods alone, and as much as I love my friends, sometimes I long to have that time that is just me and the trees and the earth with no humans but myself. To speak quietly with an oak without interruption or evesdropping. 🙂 My guide dog isn’t trained to walk off trail, and often a trail is pretty precarious without the ability to know where it turns or is washed out or any other myriad issues. Perhaps though leaving your son alone was heartbreaking, you also gave him a gift to be silent and in solitude with the natural world around him. How many moments like that are really available to him? I wish we could make more of nature accessible to us all, if we learned to work together it wouldn’t be difficult to do, at least in theory. Until then we cherish what we have.

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      The tears were glad ones, Éilis, that I could get him there and leave him in silence and solitude, for the very reasons you describe. It is something few of us ever stop to think about, yet, as Nick once mentioned, he hadn’t been outside alone in four years without someone over his shoulder pushing his wheelchair.
      The electric wheelchair gives him a little more freedom for that, but is limited for access and distance.
      The opportunity for solitude is something most of us take for granted… the ability to ‘walk away’ from the world. It isn’t always that easy. I’m glad you have good freinds to take you into the wilder places, but I can understand that wish to be alone with the silence.

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  3. alienorajt says:

    Lovely and moving, Sue. That image of Nick brought tears to my eyes. xxx

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  4. I’ve been looking for an electric scooter or chair that will go off-road, but the few that exist are frighteningly expensive. I can still walk, though not well and not far … but there are many places I can no longer go and no one will let me go anywhere alone anymore. That little bit of solitude was a great gift.

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      The offroaders are expensive here too, Marilyn, dreadfully so. However the National Trust that manages many historic properties including wood and moorlands do sometimes have them to borrow where there is a trail and there are occasionally some for hire at other places, as well as the national Shopmobility scheme in towns.

      Offroad and away from the crowds though is the real goal… and to be able to go out there alone. Getting to these places is hard enough in the first place.

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  5. Yes, beautiful and tears…

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