Friday 22 April 2016, Epping Forest, London.
Ever since we got back from New Zealand and Hong Kong I have been suffering from a distinct lack of interest in actually doing anything, though if I am honest this malaise has been hanging over my head like a threatening rain cloud for a while. In the last couple of weeks I blamed the jet lag. Convenient. Yet wrong. Not that I have any other answer for it. Maybe it is just simply that I got lazy! I have had a couple of attempts at the gym since we got back and didn’t enjoy either of them, I feel unfit and slow, and at times a little miserable about it all.
Yesterday I read a post by Paul, a guy I follow on WordPress, about how getting outdoors and doing some exercise can make you feel a whole lot better. I know this, in fact I have known this for a long time, yet still I was doing very little about it. It is a great read, so check it out and it did make me determined to get up early this morning, get back to Epping Forest, take my camera and go for a good walk.
Then…… This morning. I had a poor sleep, again, second really bad night in a row. I was awake when El got up for work, and I planned on getting up and out the door before mid-morning. Once El had left, the malaise hit me again and all of a sudden I was planning on a day of reading and wasting time surfing the internet – doing anything but what I really needed to do. Shift my butt – and my head.
I was on my second cup of coffee, still in bed, reading Kiwi Trail Runner magazine when I came across another article about exercise and a healthy mind. This time I did make it out of bed. I am glad I did!
I took the bus to Chingford Station on the edge of Epping Forest. I had been thinking of walking home from Chingford using all the linked sections of forest that I use on mountain bike rides, but on the bus I changed my mind and decided to head into the forest and wander vacantly instead. Getting lost would be OK, it is not a vast forest and I sort of know my way about.
I started off walking up one of the many preformed paths, following a man walking a couple of small dogs at a much faster pace than I planned on mustering today.
I am trying to slow down a bit, I have always been a fast walker, and since being in London, I have got faster and more ‘aggressive’ in my walking, I have a rush hour head on all the time. I want to teach myself to relax, care more about the journey than the arriving. I think I did OK today. I noticed the smells of the forest, as soon as I was under the tree cover; the earthy smell of mould and rotting tree fall permeated the air, a healthy natural smell, not unpleasant. Just there and it felt good noticing it. Taking the time to listen and smell and really see was something I need do to more often.
I finally reached the end of the path I was on and had a few choices of dirt single track to chose. I wanted to try and find a silver birch grove I have passed through on my rides, which had become a favourite part of the forest. I have not ridden here all year – part of my slackness. I was blaming the mud – but I rode last winter. I was sort of scoping out the mud today with a near future ride in mind. There was a lot less mud than winter, but still plenty about.
Carrying on in what was the general direction of where I thought I wanted to go, I saw loads of trees I wanted to take photos of. I am a bit of obsessed with trees and forests at the moment, a very long moment I guess. At the start of the walk I was looking for something different to take photos of, there is a lot of tree fall in the forest, short roots and light soil leave them exposed to the dangers from a high wind.
With spring well under way, there is a lot green about, fresh buds mixing with old winter growth. There is not a huge amount of colour around, but seeing the trees starting to embrace the spring and lead us towards summer is such a good thing.
The other thing I was looking to take some photos of was the small stream that runs through this section of the forest, it was my target for when I headed back towards the station. I like the way it twists and turns every few metres. Next time I hit the forest I will walk the stream from one edge to the other.
More by good fortune than good planning I found the area I was looking for, a gentle hill that heads up in the direction of High Beach. I love this grafittied (I think) beach tree. Some of the dates stretch back a few decades.
This part of the forest is just stunning, and that was before I hit the silver birch section. It is a time of the year I really like in the forest, just as the leaves are starting to reappear on the trees, there is more light, softer more delicate colour and the shapes made by the branches and trunks are still visible.
And then I went a bit camera mad. One of the wise decisions I made when I packed a bag last night, and I did think twice about this, was to bring a tripod. I brought a lighter weight one, which I did regret as it did not cope well with the weight of the 5d. Next time I will take the big one. But the tripod allowed me to take better photos.
I spent quite a long time wandering aimlessly around the silver birch grove. The great thing about Epping is it is so small you just cannot get seriously lost. I didn’t bother with trails up here, just moved between the trees to the next location that took my fancy. I found a nice open space at the top of the low rise, where I stopped for a drink of water, a snack and a sit down on a pile of dead trees.
There was another lovely little grove of silver birches on my way back towards the station; I really do love these trees and just could not help myself and took a few more photos.
I must admit to getting a bit mis-placed on my way back, thinking I was in one place and then finding out I was somewhere else, just like I do on my bike rides. I saw a couple of small deer in this section, I was not quick enough to get a photo, but it was pleasing to see them, maybe one day I will come back with a bigger lens and do a bit of deer stalking.
I eventually found the stream again, so I walked along it for a while, taking photos here and there. These little bridges are pretty cool, I am assuming for mountain bikers to cross the small streams. I just like the fact they are there and there is no path leading to or away from them.
Soon enough I was on one of the fixed paths heading back towards the station. Except I wasn’t, I was on a path heading away from the station… Not terribly away, not 180 degrees, now that would have been embarrassing! Once I worked out where I was it was a fairly short hike back to where I started.
I was out for 3 ½ hours. 3 ½ hours of relative peace – you can hear the road from many places in the forest, but fresh air, lovely trees and semi-solitude. It was what the soul needed and I felt so much better than I did when I woke up this morning and almost did not go out.
I have now bought a book on English trees, it is about time I could name more than just an oak tree.
In other news – let’s drift back in time a bit to last week. I quit my job. I don’t have another one to go to, but I have a three month notice period, which just made looking for another job seem impossible. I have taken the risk and hopefully it will pay off!
P.S A question a few days after posting.
I have just looked at this post on a different computer from the one I edited the photos on. The photos on that computer were, in my opinion, a bit too bright and almost over-exposed. Do you see over-bright photos or over-dark photos ? I am interested to know so I can make sure I edit on the right computer! Please let me know.