The last walk of 2011 takes place on one of the loveliest days of the winter so far, in fresh bright weather.
If I ever wanted to do something requiring good weather, I would choose an Erpingham and Calthorpe WI walk day, because the weather is almost always lovely, and here we are again.
The Christmas walk has produced an excellent attendance ( has rumour gone around about Megs mince pies?) and as on previous occasions we have an honorary male non-member along on the walk. We are promised best behaviour.
Although it looks like a glorious day it is cold, and warm gloves and hats are in evidence. It had rained hours ago and a local walk on good ground through the village, is in prospect. One of the nicest things about walking familiar territory is the joy of witnessing seasonal change, and seeing the familiar with other people who have another point of view on the landscape. The clear bright light and the just washed feel of the recently rained on countryside make this a fresh and lively walk, and we step out.
Led by Meg we set off towards Calthorpe and pass the lovely old church. I had never noticed before that the post box was at one time built into an old wall. The wall has all but vanished, leaving the post box standing in the only section surviving. It makes you want to write letters!
Views across the fields are glorious.You can see structure more clearly when the leaves are off the trees, and the air sparkles.
Of course, this is a working rural environment, and some of our sights are less lovely.
We head down towards the ford at Scarrowbeck. This road must be the sort of ancient track called a hollow way: the field banks at head height or above, indicating generations of use that have worn down the level of the old footpath.
The depth of the road surface means that we pass the undercut tree roots above our head, spotting dozens of large and small holes in the ground, a veritable animal village in the bank.
Our gentleman companion is very interested in the scents and traces all around. The residents have the sense to stay indoors. It is fascinating to see how the tree roots, now exposed, have developed underground. Many have been so undermined that they look as if they will fall at any moment, but they have looked like that for years.
This is a narrow lane so we stand back to allow for oncoming traffic and to take time to admire the view, even to appreciate the beauty of weeds. In abundance even horsetail can look lovely, (just not in my backyard.
Although the heavy rain last night has made the beck run fast, it is low and flowing beneath the road surface at the ford. The fields are heavy with mud, so we take the road back towards the village. There are horses in many of these fields. One elegant curious horse, on his own, shows an interest and comes over to chat. Another group together in their field, are also interested in this herd of brightly coloured humans.
Up towards School lane Erpingham church comes into view, seen above a rise, and then through a bare and thorny hedge.
We stop by a field where someone has long ago planted a ring if birch trees that wave tall and straight and somehow significant. Why a circle? Why just here? What happens here on moonlit nights?
The walk down the lane takes us past the school. What a big racket from such small people.
Nearly home and we stop to admire a still heavily laden crab apple tree in Jan's garden, thick with rosy crab apples that glow in the sunshine. It stands near a birch and the contrast of red and white is very festive.
Now for the results of todays hat competition. Closely fought, but the prize goes to the brightly coloured knit.
The best bit of a walk is sometimes the cake.
So it is Christmas, (near enough to forget the diet) and Meg has home baked mince pies waiting for the hungry walkers. No local authority order can keep us away from these delights, and there are seconds.
We are well trained and boots are off at the door.
The mince pies are as good as they look. Of course our New Years resolution is to walk off the pies in 2012.
Am I the only person who's jacket ends just below hip height so that when the rain runs off it hits the bum and stays there. (I was listening to radio 4 yesterday and they suggested that bum is not an inappropriate word and what is good enough for radio 4....). By the end of the walk around Heydon mine was very damp indeed.
Parking at the rear of the pub a good group of walkers (11 if you must know) spilled out onto the lane near the green and the church. The forecast was for mist, with rain expected later in the afternoon, and you know where we are going with this don't you. Heydon is an embarrassment of riches, and it would have been nice to see the church, walk on the green and look at the preserved houses and be generally curious about this fascinating spot, but we were keen to walk.
Some of us were more prepared for the weather than others.
We set off towards the park gates on a very damp day. The best vista across the park was subdued in the foggy weather, all the lovely horses and cattle seen on previous visits were either taking shelter or had become invisible.
The trees in the park are magnificent and even this late in the season many of them are still in golden leaf. I loved the flat top hair cuts of the yew trees which looked really crisp and newly trimmed.
Perhaps the most dramatic sight on the walk would have been the house set back from the footpath, but the mist here shrouded the building and rendered the architectural detail a little vague, It was all rather Gothic.
Other homes were much more visible. We identified a wasp nest? in a tree, and admired this little detatched place whos occupant was fairly curious about us. We found no fairies under the toadstool, but it was nice to find a bit of fungus this week, previous walks having provided so many,
As the mist began to convert its self into rain, Gothic turned into wet.
I had to check the map at this point as the test walk I had undertaken had been on a hot sunny day just a few weeks ago. This did not look like that walk, but it was. Off we went again along a clear straight path travelling past fields and distant stands of trees, all a vague, hinted at view in the distance.
This walking group is not much put off by this weather and we steamed ahead at a great rate. Steam really did rise off us. Without views to enjoy we had the time and opportunity to chat as we walked and the time flew by.
The way took us along farm paths and into an area of woodland bracketed by 2 lovely old red brick buildings. One was a large farm house, the other more like a gingerbread cottage, both snuggled
It had been as if we had the whole estate to ourselves, but eventually we walked out through a gate onto the road, quiet at this point, and wandered back to crossroads leading into the village again. This is one of those fascinating Norfolk roads that has become a tunnel, overhung by trees, and it draws walkers down into the view. In the fields along side the road were some robust black and white goats and, of equal stature, a fat white pony.
I wonder if animals think that we must be mad to be out when we could be in a cosy house. Home and hearth is even cosier though, when you have walked in the rain on a raw November day.
A real enthusiasm developed in the group at this point. We are almost back at the green.
And so we came to the tea room. Very Agatha Christie. Someone should solve a murder while sitting in the bow window of this amazing place, looking over Heydon Green for inspiration.
I don't often publish my photos of cake, but I do have an extensive collection.
We half fill the tea rooms and steam a bit more. The rain really did go for it now but from inside this charming little room, all higgldy-piggldy shelves and dainty china we were able to take a more philosophical view of this weather.
The cakes here are all home made and at least one comment was made on the bucket size of the cappuchinos. After a very leisurly cup of tea and my favourite spicy scones we took our various damp body parts back to the carpark (must try the pub one of these days) and away home.
Footnote: Gilly has a techie thingy that counts footsteps, mileage and calories. Sufice it to say 'we did good today.' in all respects. Result!