We walked around our local streets, past the water leak bubbling out the road, Fred drinking from the stream of water running along the curb. The man who lives in the house right next to this water leak was cutting his hedge. I know him and he likes Fred.
He said, ‘do you want to know the saga?’
Of course, and he went onto explain how for three weeks this water has been poring out. Four way traffic lights will be installed next week to complete what he estimated was a two hour job on this very quiet residential back street. He has an air of self confidant corporation shop floor worker about him and he tells a story in a very entertaining way, making the waterboard look very foolish. He also used to work in the water industry.
The funniest part of his story was where he phoned the water board to explain that they had already closed the road for 3 days to enable a sewer drain to be installed about 50 yards from the water leak, but after repeated requests from him saying, you have closed the road and you’ve diverted the traffic all you have to do is arrange for men to come and repair it while your other men are working on the sewer? The answer seemed to be they thought the water leak had been fixed already before the sewer pipework had started, even though the workmen were wading about in several inches of water the whole time. The whole thing would soon be sorted out very soon.
The man’s wife came out of the house saying, ‘There’s not a lot of work going on out here’ . We said goodbye laughing and we left him to get on with his hedge cutting.
The next encounter was with an old lady walking home from the co op. She was very keen to say hello to Fred, who does like the attention. She was eager to explain and ‘she wouldn’t keep me long’ that her Shih Tzu, also known as the (Chrysanthemum Dog) had been found by her daughter abandoned as a puppy and in a coma. She had carried the dog home and called the vet. Advise was do nothing and see if the dog recovers. The dog is now eleven and sleeps on the old lady’s bed along with two cats in one harmonious family. I noted her chunky cardigan definatly not fair isle but in the Fair Isle envelope. Done up with two buttons at the top.
We drove through an estate of static homes before our walk. What interesting places static-home estates are. Fascinating – but a blog for another day perhaps. It was a woodland walk again for me and Fred this morning. Woodlands being such a large part of my life, for so long now I stayed with my plan to walk in The Blean Woods. We said hello to a silent man, who I assume was a jogger who was not jogging, just a silent man. It was very green, very leafy and very unlike the woodland scene I created yesterday.
I made a model house of sticks, it was a replica of the one I made all those years ago when my two daughters were young, along with one of our neighbours’ children. It disappeared many many years ago when forestry volunteers cleared the coppiced area of logs. The area now is tall with trees and I might revisit the spot with Fred soon.
I have drawn so many green drawings in recent years that I consciously resisted the initial urge to create a summer woodland scene like the ones I experience with Fred. I had an exhibition of my maps and seeing all the work together, realised then that the huge majority of my drawings were green. I still wanted to do a green drawing, but felt compelled to resist. My drawing changed course barely after starting. It came out nearly black and white, nearly a greyscale drawing. It was not the sunny summer woodland I had just walked with Fred, it was the woodlands of fairy tales with birds that talk, and feelings of the unknown, uncertain and the unexpected about them. They were the dark woodlands we have in Northern and Eastern Europe, populated with spirits and magic. All mumbo jumbo, yet somehow deep in the back of the mind woodlands still hold archetypal other-world events! These were the woodlands that came out in my drawing. Not the scene I had in my minds eye when I was embarking on constructing my model.
Then I remembered a woman in the woods mistaking Fred for a fox and shouting out in surprise. This is what woodlands do, they change perceptions.
We had a short walk on the lead this morning, as I was uncertain about Fred’s leg (I needn’t have worried). Last night he rushed head long into the garden barking in over excitement at catching a cat, he clattered into the forest of garden furniture legs. I think the phrase ‘totally wiped out’ covers it. He ricocheted through on his side, on two legs and on his back. Came back into the kitchen limping rather heavily!
All was well in the morning which was dust bin day. We walked around and met no one at all, no dogs either, all strangely quiet. Fred has sniffed every bin outside every house on every street. While Fred was sniffing these bins, I remembered a comment about how many weeds were growing through the pavement. I don’t ever remember seeing weeds on this scale growing out of the pavements. Sadly I cant identify the species, but nice mosses in large clumps. It did feel a bit like a Stephen King novel with empty overgrown streets with no one around except for several dust carts patrolling the streets.
Another woodland walk early this morning found me and Fred walking amongst a village of stick houses? Possibly as many as eight structures erected at a crossroads in the woods. This seemed to take these shelter constructions to another level. These are made for effect and not inhabited and the whole thing puts me in mind of a prehistoric museum installation. It’s as if your half expecting actors dressed in furs with spears to appear through the trees. There are no clues as to why these shelters are being made or who by; I would describe them as being in the crop circle envelope, if you see what I mean. All I can say about them is that they are made from logs piled up by Kent Wildlife Trust woodland management teams who have coppiced or thinned an area of trees and stacked the logs in tidy piles. People basically using these stacked logs to build these shelters?
Well what did emerge through the trees as an old man with a cane with a metal tip and a quite a large dog. He was a very engaging man over 80 he told me wearing a white checked shirt, stone washed jeans held up by heavily patterned braces (possibly paisley). He began to tell me what kind of dog he had, but I never got to the bottom of it! It was something to do with an Alsatian, a pub called the Gateway and generations of dogs. It was two years old and could run like the wind as it had greyhound ish make up. Fred chased this dog and ran himself into the ground trying to catch it. While this was going on I had plenty of time to hear this man’s story about hare coursing, hay barrels and beaters in the trees. But again, it never reached a clear conclusion, lots of detail about yellow flags and red flags and the cleverer of two dogs involved going around the back, but just how they caught the hares I remain a little confused. What was clear, as he mentioned it several times was that he was going to Quinney’s, a local firm making fences and log cabins and the like and he walked on with his Alsatian/Greyhound.
Five minutes later I see him in the distance behind me. You’re not going to Quinney’ after all? I don’t feel like a repeat of the chasing and charging about that had just finished. It had all got rather lively and Fred had run into a tree in all the shenanigans ….. to no ill effect it seems. But I didn’t want things to get out of control again. So, I hastily walked on and shortly saw a jeep parked at the edge of the woodland. This was his dog walk before going to Quinney’s and he was on his way back to his car.
So I will begin by saying Yesterday’s outing to the copse with Fred went very well (relatively speaking) compared with the walk this mornings walk in my local woodland. The Copse is open to anyone including local children on holiday from school to enjoy playing in there. Fred chasing after teenage girls playing ‘it’ was a bad as it got. He spent a lot of time with me on the lead. But when it was empty he had a jolly good run and look around. Me I just didn’t quite finish properly what I wanted to achieve and will need to return without Fred.
So I have noticed in my local woodlands where I have been walking with Fred over a few weeks now, lots, countless numbers of these ‘dens’ made from logs laying around on the woodland floor. Some the result of coppicing others just fallen branches. I have been taking photos of these on our walks.
I remember making a den exactly like this on an excursion to the woods when my children were young and I even took the neighbours children along with us. We spent the afternoon mading a log den exactly like these. I asked the Kent Wildlife Trust if these were being built as part of their forest school activities. No someone is coming into the woodlands and making them with no connection to our activities. There are scores of these in the woodland. I have also noticed someone is creating tree arches where ever suitable trees are growing, these spanning across the patheways. Made by bending the trees towards each other and twisting the branches together (like what you do with two ends of wire rto stop them coming apart). There are scores of these all over the place as well.
I have been collecting sticks painting them white with the intention of making some of these ‘dens’ on a small scale.