Sometimes it feels like an achievement to go on putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you need to stop to take in the view.
As late summer turns to autumn, paths that were dry and hard all summer need careful watching as you walk: golden leaves, browning and blackening, hide the dog poo; slick ground shows the marks of skidding boots. We see a woman walking barefoot through churned mud.
Stopping to listen to bullfinches, we spot a red glow on the slope above. It takes a steep climb up a badger path to find these fly agaric among the trees.
Even with hiking sticks, the way down is too slippery to contemplate with a hip replacement so we push on towards the top of the hill. Out in the sunlight, the brambles close in. Being taller than badgers it’s a struggle for us to get through. But there is no way we are going back.
We are laughing when we emerge among cow parsley and tufts of grass to rejoin the path we have so often taken before.
On top of the hill the trees are bare now; the wind has blown the leaves from their bones.
Dry stalks hold up the last seed heads.
On the other side of the hill the rowan berries have ripened, glowed and are all gone. An industrial estate appears through naked trees.
In sombre mood in November we reflect on the presence of a brick structure – a gun emplacement from WWII? We know there were anti-aircraft batteries here, near the coast. And are those craters and dips in the long broad top of the hill really bomb holes? It’s what we used to call them when we were kids.
A little pink catches the eye among the dark leaves.
At the entrance to the wood is a garden and this holly brilliant with berries. The woman of the house is on the path outside her gate. ‘They will be there till just before Christmas,’ she says. ‘And then the birds will come and eat them all.’
As we leave the hill and the scent of rich decay we hear a green woodpecker high above us, laughing.