A story inspired by a walk on Bodmin moor
I sit gazing up at the grey rocks above me, like giant building blocks slung at the soft grey-green hill, their solid immovability pleases me and it settles my mind. Walking always has helped me to relax and today is no different. My seat is a moss-covered wall which once marked the garden of the tiny ruined cottage squatting in the valley behind me. There is little left there now, just tumble-down walls, a glassless window frame and a fireplace filled with crumbled debris. A smart black rook is keeping me company, I can feel his bright black eyes following as I throw aside my apple core and reach inside my rucksack for my crumpled map.
The dry grass rustled against her shins, it was the only sound apart from the occasional wave of air rolling through the crisp seed heads. Their dry tops rustle and wisps of down drift off on the breeze on an uncharted journey of chance. There was a comfort in the silent stillness of the moor and the sun was warm on the back of her neck. Cloud shadows spun across the empty landscape, adding to the feeling of distance, all sense of scale lost. Huddles of sheep stand dotted in cosy groups. If she strained her ears she could hear them chewing on the leathery grass. She adjusted her bundle, vegetables bought from market, and walked on, silent barefooted steps towards the base of the distant grey tor.
The sadness of that empty home is affecting and despite the sunshine I feel a little chilled. Sadness from a home forgotten. I can imagine feet walking slowly up the garden path after the long trudge across the moors. I look at my watch. It’s time to head back towards my car which I have left parked on a verge at the edge of the grassland. I drop down from the little wall and head towards hill. The path hugs the edge of the tor about halfway up and weaves between tumbled boulders and masses of bronze-coloured bracken. The rocky outcrop is always visible above me as I walk. A watcher and a castle.
Water has gathered in a slight dip in the landscape, the glassy pool’s surface is pierced by reeds and bugs fizz and hum in the air all around, attracted by the necessary damp. As she passes the horseflies sense a meal nearby and she has to swat one as it lands on her bare knee. The bundle was weighing heavier now but she was half way to the trees that shade the valley near the base of the hill. She was thinking of her home not far away. The familiar warmth was waiting, the grate would be glowing by now.
As the curve of the hill turns me away from the ruin in the valley floor I look back one last time. The rook is circling above the little homestead, the walls aren’t clear from this distance as if, as I have been walking with my back turned, they have nestled themselves further down into the hollow. The tor looms larger above me now. My eyes trace its silhouette and the flashes of yellow gorse on the slopes. I walk on towards the patch of trees darker and cooler beside the stream, I can see the snaking strip of water glinting in the distance but there is no sound, it is still too far away.
When she reaches the band of trees she pauses in their shelter, ferns fanning out beneath them, their green feathers bending towards the rushing stream that dashes off towards her home. The trees themselves are an eerie display of plumes of lichen. The grey tendrils cover the branches like heavy cobwebs. She crosses the ancient granite bridge, the slabs of the silvery stone moved there generations ago, her feet just two of many thousands that have walked this path. Home was just beyond the curve of the hill. The tor looms like a fortress above her.
Arriving at the river I enter the shade. I have always loved these trees, swathed as they are with moss and lichen. I am nearly there, just the walk back across the expanse of grassy moorland now. I pause and breathe in the damp earthy air. Strange how some places have a magic about them, a feeling of otherworldliness, like there is something close but that you can’t quite see it pass you by. Like a memory. I cross the granite bridge and walk on out onto the sunlight moor.