'Where shall we go, Dad?'
Mum and Dad were spending the day with us, and we always go out somewhere. As Fingal told you it's been soggy around here this winter, but yesterday was dry and not too cold. Dad remembered a wood where we used to go for walks, so off we went.
I hadn't been there since I was a child but it was a big part of my childhood. We'd often go there on weekends and I think I learned to love the autumness of autumn in that wood. When I was very small I didn't altogether appreciate it, but that was all to do with having little legs. Little legs meant that I was always way behind everybody else, and shouting to them to wait for me. It also meant that I was close to the ground and was constantly finding a leaf/clump of flowers/living thing/dead thing that required further investigation. Over the years it awakened something Narnia-ish in me. The ground was squidgy and we didn't walk far, but it was tranquil and smelt of woodland. A few other visitors were there with muddy happy dogs jumping in and out of car boots.
Then it was 'can we go to Beltingham?'. Yes, we could. I don't think I've ever been there before, and I want to go back.
Beltingham is tiny. It consists of a church and a few small and elegant stone houses built in 1903 by the local squire, The Hon Francis Bowes-Lyon. Presumably they were for people who worked on the estate or in the Hall, and if so he was a caring man. It was so pretty and unassuming, with the brook running past at the bottom of the hill. How come it's been there all the time and I never knew about it?
And the wonderful thing is that this storybook place (which I'm sure has a book in it) is not in a magic world or a fairy tale. it is real. Real, and I was there.