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Thursday 7 June 2012

Exploring England

Taking advantage of the long weekend, I decided to go for a bit of an explore. The weather had stopped drizzling so the paths were wet but not too full of puddles and everything smelled of green. I headed up a long straight, footpath under trees which alternated between sandy gravel and cinders ... the remnants of an old disused railway line. Followed this for about a mile accidentally surprising a lady plugged into her ipod although I’d shouted a greeting so as not to startle her.

Turn off the main straight under the trees onto a muddy path, squelch, squelch, with the drops from the rain on the trees occasionally making it into the dim greenness and hitting the ground with dull splots. Circle round back onto the main path overtaking a runner I’d seen briefly earlier and heading up a ramp onto a grassy track over an old railway bridge and through a gate into a field. No more long green grass... the diggers had started putting foundations in for more houses. They’ll have the best view in the town – a straight look across the houses to the fields beyond the town where the church spires and the school clock tower showed like spines on the horizon.

Through the field and wet grass into a housing estate and straight into a sharp hill. It’s deceptive. I’ve run a couple of miles now but this hill always hurts a bit more than it should. Footsteps, pat, pat, pat on the pavement. Into the estate where its a slight incline but always feels flat after the last hills and up past the shop and under the pylon.

Up the bank and past the lorry park where I’d startled a couple of lorry drivers a week ago and up to the big motorway roundabout and over the motorway running along the verge. Quick sprints past the exits while the traffic lightw were red and onto the safety of the verge of the road on the other side. Quick trot over the verge avoiding roadsigns and litter and down a little lane.

It doesn’t matter what the weather like is when I run down this lane, it always feels summery and slightly dusty in my head. It’s a dreamy little lane, waiting for tractors pulling trailers full of hay and children on bicycles. Down, down past a broken down car and people with their heads under the bonnet. Down the hill and past houses with Jubilee flags outside and red, white and blue petunias in pots outside their front doors.

Dusty lanes and overgrown hedges. No cars except one who pulls over for me to run past in safety. Past an industrial site with muddy ruts and wire fencing. Strange to be tucked away down a lane like this. Footfalls, pat, pat, pat.

Up a hill but no reward of a view at the top as the summer hedge is too high, then back down the hill under the old trees where the crack of a pigeons wing startles me and I jump as I run. Down the hill and round a bend and the ford has flooded the road! Over the footbridge avoiding damp feet and up to the old redbrick bridge and a moment of coldness.  

Long slow hill. Long and slow. Slow. Past another industrial site and under the old trees and past the hedges. Slow.

A proper road! No cars today – the Jubilee seems to have kept everyone off the road so I pattered down the side near the hedges ready to leap onto the verge should some mad driver suddenly appear. End of the road and a new tiny lane. Up a sharp hill but the grass growing in the road and the uneven surface makes the hill feel less than it was. Past houses tucked away with pictures of the Queen in the window. Past a field of cows with their distinctive smell which makes me think of the village at home. Past a church, squat and symmetrical, round a corner and back onto the main road.

Pavement and main road brings me back into the 21st century and cars and speed bumps. Down the main road with cars and trucks and verge leaping. Up a hill, running on the verge with the town on the horizon and fields to the left and right. An old humped bridge narrows the road and i cross the road and scoot down the side of the bridge onto the canal path.

Mud .. sticky ... black and squelchy slows me to a walk after the sliding and splatting streaks my legs with mud. Run ... and walk. Long canal tunnel coming closer but no lights on in it ... only a circle the size of a lightbulb at the other end. Run up the side and over the tunnel to the stile and field at the top. Over the field and back onto the main road with the humped bridge just behind me. Onto a large verge with dried, hard tractor tyre marks on it. Ouch ankle. Cross again past the bend and onto the pavement and down a fast, steep hill past a pub where two young boys shout something. I raise my arms and shout „going for the olympics“ as I fly past and on to the long slight hill and on to the end of the road.

Decisions ... left and home? Or right and through town? Right and on smooth new pavements and past roundabouts with dead ends. Under a concrete bridge and past the stink of dead animal. End of the pavement, wiat for the cars and sprint!

Up the hill, past the pub whihc looks very quiet. The corner shops are closed although the takeaways are open and neon signs are already lit in the daylight. Up the hill, past the cars parked at the side of the road, past the men with long, greasy heair and studded leather jackets. Past the dog walkers and over the traffic lights.

Past the petrol station with its drinks of water, past the pub with it’s smell of beer and smoke and peanuts. Over the crossing and dodging the smokers outside the pub enjoying the sunshine which has come out. Onto cobbles and past the tourists peering at the school... into the main street and stop.

Best ... coca cola ... ever. And a sit down to enjoy it in the sunshine.

Across the street, dodging people strolling and up the forked high street and onto the road, sheltered from the sun by the tall buildings of the school and privet hedges. More tourist dodging and up old, bumpy pavements.

Onto the road which feels downhill running both directions and past the cemetary and central walk... footsteps... pat, pat, pat. Past the playground, past the pub and down the last hill over the railway. Nice smooth concrete and the hill steepens down to where the water and mud have puddled on a dip in the pavement. Footsteps, pat, pat, splat!, pat, pat.

Cross the road, past the industrial estates, no sound or noise today and cross the road and more industrioal estates. Quick sprint across the road to the pavement and home stretch. Smooth stones, but uneven pavements and lots of roads to cross. Avoiding the teenagers spread across the path and across the path, over the road and home.

Home to a cool shower, a long drink and a sense of satisfaction.

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