Shame

I’ve lived in this house for nearly all of my 38 years. The house and its grounds have changed a lot over the years and more recently, a housing development has started to creep down this rural road.

For now though, I’m still surrounded by trees and fields and footpaths which criss cross the lands around.

Today when I got home from work I just needed to get out. I ignored the washing and the dishes, the ironing and the vacuuming, the marking and the planning. I changed into my walking shoes, swapped my blazer for a warm fleece and ignoring the fact that my daughter had already walked him, took my dog out for a walk.

It’s what I needed: sunshine, fresh air and birdsong, the exercise to stimulate my body, heart and mind.

I walked a way down my road and then crossed over to what my dad fondly called the ‘cart-track’. It’s a public footpath, indeed the width of a cart or car, but without tarmac. There are two houses down this bumpy track who are truly unspoilt in their views of the countryside.

I have so much history with this track.The track was a favourite walking place for me and my dog when I was sixteen and me and my pony when I was even younger. One of the houses was abandoned and derelict throughout my childhood and Dad relished taking us on a haunted walk there each Halloween. As I walked past it today it was transformed – new plaster and paint on the walls, a garage and a grassy lawn where once brambles and overgrown bushes grew. I realised how long it had been since I had walked down this track. Years and years. Shame on me.

I walked further a saw the grassy layby where I once stopped with my pony, hearing an approaching dirt bike further up the road. The rider turned out to be a boy who was in an older year than me in primary school and I remember how that conversation in the layby lead to a mutual crush.

We carried on walking down the tree lined track, past the entrance to the wood which I walked in with my Dad when I was a child. Now it’s owned by a business who does not permit my entry, so I continued on past the second of the two houses I mentioned earlier.

This detatched grey farmhouse was as austere as I remembered but not as frightening without its pacing and growling dogs being the fences that are still there. I wondered if the same people still lived there, and remembered a brown haired girl on a palomino pony who used to make their dogs bark all those years ago.

Once past the house the trees disappear and open fields stretch on either side of the overgrown path.

We carried on and I remembered the times I would canter down this path imaging I was on an adventure.

It was glorious in the spring sunshine and I could feel my heart swell with contentment.

We carried on until we reached the row of cottages right at the other end of the track. This is where I would always turn round and head back, sneakily casting a glance at the second house for a glimpse of my childhood crush. Today I carried on walking until I came to a fork in the road.

To the right, the track curved round past the houses to lead to a familiar road which would eventually lead to the road I live on. To the left, promoted by a newly positioned wooden sign post was another public footpath, one I had never gone down. Can you believe that? 38 years and this place was on my doorstep.

I walked past another wood, through farmers’ fields, occasionally mystified at the direction of travel but lost of the time intrigued and shamed by this missed opportunity.

Eventually, we arrived at another known cart-track which I used to go down with my Dad to visit his farmer friend who lived down the way. Soon, we were out on to the main road and it was not long before I was turning back into my own road again.

Isn’t it amazing what is on your doorstep and often what you miss in the complications of a hectic working life? So many memories, so many opportunities missed to enjoy this place which is just a walk away.

It reiterated to me so clearly that we must go through our lives with our eyes wide open and allow ourselves to walk a little in this fast-paced modern world. We miss out on so much of we don’t.

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