What we talk about when we talk about walking

Most of my recent posts have been about non-literary topics. I’ve been chronicling our rural walks during the UK lockdown, which has restricted our movement and curtailed travel – we’ve now missed two scheduled trips to Spain, and may not make it to my brother’s wedding in Cyprus in June. We hold socially distanced clandestine meetings with Mrs TD’s sister and her husband in the underground carpark of our local Marks and Spencer store.

Woodland pathHere’s the view of the start of the path through the woods near the end of our road. The whitebells at the top of the path are superseded lower down by bluebells. The leaves, which a week or so back were just green buds, have now burst into delicate shades of green, soft to the touch as a baby’s skin.

Kenwyn 40 stepsThe blue sky and sunshine just glimpsed through the canopy was replaced on this walk a couple of days ago by spring showers half an hour later.

Many of our walks take us past Kenwyn church, about which I’ve written several times lately. This next picture is the view from the edge of the churchyard down what’s known locally as The Forty Steps. Shame it wasn’t thirty-nine, so it could have had a literary connection.

PeacockFrom the bottom of the steps we walk towards the hamlet of Idless. There’s an excellent farm shop outlet there that has been a lifesaver lately: they deliver fresh local produce to our door. We’ve often heard the screams of peacocks on this lane. A couple of days ago I saw one of the culprits for the first time. He was perched on an outhouse roof. My picture is a bit blurred as I had to zoom in on him from 40 metres away. How can such a handsome creature emit such a raucous, ugly sound?!

Today’s walk took us towards the city Chestnut flowerhospital, past the golf course – still being kept immaculately mown, even though no-one is allowed to play any more. Overlooking the main road is a magnificent horse chestnut, which has just burst into flower. I’ve never noticed before just how beautiful these multiple blooms are. These are among the first trees to come into leaf and flower. Meanwhile the central reservation on this busy dual carriageway is beginning to turn multicoloured: golden poppies and marigolds are flowering, sown a couple of years ago as part of the Wild Truro initiative. It makes a bleak commuter rat-run into a natural haven. Soon the red poppies will be out.

As we walk, Mrs TD and I have discovered our topics of conversation have fallen into a pattern. For the first half hour or so we talk about the current crisis: the inept posturing and bluster of our politicians; the shortages of key equipment by the underpaid workers at what our rhetoric-loving leaders love to call ‘the front line’. By turning the virus into a hostile ‘enemy’ (or even ‘an invisible mugger’, of all things) they can portray themselves as heroic defenders of their people. Gunslingers in pinstripes.

FordThen we spend a half hour discussing what to have for lunch and/or dinner. This is a hot topic since we try not to go near supermarkets at present; even with social distancing measures in place, many people seem to ignore them. Our food stocks are therefore a little depleted, and we have to show some culinary ingenuity.

During and after these two topics we intertwine comments on the scenery we’re walking past. On today’s walk, for example, down a lane we’ve not explored before, we took a short detour to look at this pretty ford. An exotic, oriental-looking rhododendron was in glorious bloom just beyond – just glimpsed in my picture. The little bridge looks like the ones on Dartmoor. It must be very old.

In a previous post I mentioned seeing house martins for the first time this spring. Still no swallows. And I’ve still not heard a spring cuckoo for maybe a decade. This is the month to hear them.

Caroline at her blog Beauty is a Sleeping Cat is embarking on ‘Post a Day in May’; I doubt I’ll manage a daily post, but I’ll try to keep these lockdown chronicles going. There should be a book post soon: I’m just finishing Edith Wharton’s The Reef.


16 thoughts on “What we talk about when we talk about walking

  1. Thanks for sharing images from your outings, Simon – happy to see the countryside, if only vicariously! Peacocks are a strange breed – the noise they make is quite hideous. We are hearing a strange new bird call locally at the moment, almost a hooting or honking (but not geese). It’s odd because we can identify most of our local birds – magpies, pigeons, blackbirds, jays and a lone woodpecker – but this one is completely new to us. One day I’ll hope to catch sight of it…

    I had to laugh at you having clandestine family meetings – my Middle and Youngest children live within ten minutes of each other, so often manage to time their exercise outings on the local park so that they can at least say hello from a suitable distance! 😀

    • Maybe your mystery honker is a waterfowl of some kind? Are you near water? We often see wild geese flying overhead and honking amicably to each other. As for the carpark meetings: we glance around furtively for CCTV cameras; expect to see Deep Throat emerge from the shadows any time. But we do keep our distance from each other.

  2. That’s a lovely post and photos. You seem to live in such a nice region. The clandestine meetings made me laugh. Lockdown rebellion.
    We have a small chestnut forest here and noticed that either they were never in full bloom like this or we hadn’t noticed. More birds too. We also tend to speak about the crisis first and then other topics.
    Thanks for the link. Let’s see how we progress this month.

    • Thanks, Caroline – and for prompting me to post this piece today. I’m never sure if anyone wants to read these meandering, non-literary pieces. One thing we’re noticing as we do long walks daily is that we’re seeing more detail in nature than usual – paying more attention, I suppose. And taking note too of how nature develops daily – new plants emerging or flowering (like that wonderful chestnut). And yes, we’re in a beautiful part of the UK here in Cornwall. Shame we can’t drive to the beach any more.

  3. YES, I DO want to read you “meandering, non-literary pieces’! I love them. For me, Cornwall is filled with mystic exoticism. I love the bridge, it looks very very old at its base.

    Funny, the ‘shelter-in-place” has created so much creativity and acute, close-up perception. Emily Dickinson lived this cloistered lifestyle, and her poetry is a feast of close perception of the grain of sand, the blade of grass.

    I will send this to you in Twitter, but there is also a great scene from a movie called “Mi Vida Loca” about a PRISONER who erupts in poetry and letter writing, but, as a local “Chola” (female Chicano gang member says) “When they get out, it’s a different story.

  4. Yes, I like your meanderings too!
    The Spouse and I watch our 24 hour news channel at lunchtime, and then that’s it. No more about C19 for the day.

    I’m surprised by how biddable Australians have been. There have been some high profile cases of people doing the wrong thing, (and getting hefty fines for it and/or social and political disapproval) but by and large, people have been pretty good. There’s a bit of restlessness now, though, because we have so few cases, and some states are relaxing restrictions a little, while Victoria (where I live) is not easing them because community transmission is still happening here though it’s still a *very* small number of cases.
    So it goes on…

    • Lisa: UK politicians have expressed surprise as well at the compliance from the public with restrictions on social and working life. I think most people realise the consequences of not being so. Thanks for the positive message about these chronicle posts

  5. I too enjoyed this post. Nature can be such a balm for the soul in these difficult times, and you’re lucky to live withing striking distance of some beautiful countryside. Thanks for the photos – anything that helps us feel connected to the natural world has got to be a good thing, especially right now.

    PS I like the nod to Raymond Carver in the title of your post, nice touch!

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