‘There’s No Need For That To Be In The Road’

Being a firm adherent of the adage attached to Robert the Bruce: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again’, I set off this morning in search of Dave’s lakes which I had failed to find yesterday.  For those who don’t know the story, King Robert I of Scotland, their fourteenth century monarch who fought against England, wasn’t doing very well.  He was doing so badly in fact that he sought refuge in a cave.  Whilst sitting there, pondering his next move, he watched a spider struggling to attach the thread of its web to the wall.  Back and forth, up and down, went the arachnid in its attempt to secure its fly trap. Eventually the apparently hopeless task was achieved.  Inspired by this, King Robert continued his guerrilla warfare until, at Bannockburn in 1314, a resounding victory secured independent sovereignty for his nation. What is good for a spider and a king is good enough for me.  This time I took a map and continued on the path the other side of Forest Road past Andrew’s Mare car park.  There I was given encouragement by the number of dog walkers coming to and going from their vehicles.  They must be travelling somewhere for pet frolics.  I fell in with a couple who confirmed that I was headed in the right direction.  The woman, identifying her dogs for my benefit, described them rather uncomplimentarily as ‘idiot Saluki crosses’.  Salukis in LakeApparently all the exercise they take is chasing each other after sticks thrown into the large lake. Salukis After watching the canine cavorting for I while, and feeling somewhat satisfied to have got this far without mishap, I studied my Ordnance Survey map very hard, and decided I would attempt to descend to Acres Down before returning via Newtown. Heathland FootpathI selected my path and strode across the heath. Ditch Had I paid a little more attention to the contour lines I would have realised that the one I had chosen descended steeply to a ford and rose equally as steeply on the other side.  Ascending the flinty gravel surface put me in mind of the very scary unstable scree that had made me cop out of the final push up Cumbria’s Scap Fell many years ago.  Anyone who has a similar phobia of heights will know that it becomes much worse when children are involved.  On this occasion, Louisa, then very young, had slipped on the loose stones.  That was enough to paralyse me.  Louisa, with her far more intrepid mother, reached the top.  I didn’t.  This was, however, a much gentler slope and not so far above sea level. A stream was forded just after a stone memorial Dave had told me I would pass yesterday.Murray's memorial  But, as we know, I was nowhere near it then.  Finding Murray’s memorial filled me with confidence and a certain smug satisfaction. Admiral Murray was killed whilst hunting on Backley Plain on 17th September 1901.  If you ask me, Sir Walter Tyrrell has a lot to answer for.  It was he who, allegedly accidentally, shot William Rufus not far away, thus setting an unfortunate precedent.  The story is told in photographs of the Rufus Stone posted on 19th November last year.  That memorial is about three or four miles away on the other side of the A31. Seeking further information about Admiral Murray and his manner of passing all I could find was a notice in the New Zealand Herald of 23rd November 1901 stating that he had been killed in the New Forest and had had a distinguished naval career.  This may or may not suggest he was a New Zealander.  Our antipodean friends seem to be a little short of pressworthy material, judging by The National, whose quiz Jackie and her workmates were encouraged to attempt each week by  her native colleague Brent. She still regularly attempts this puzzle. Murray's PassageAt the top of the slope is that rare thing, a signpost, leading to Murray’s Passage.  Not much good to anyone approaching it, as I did, from the lakes. Skirting Stonard Wood, as the map told me, I could go for broke and turn right down to Acres Down just to prove I could do it, or I could quit whilst I was ahead and aim for Newtown.  I chose the latter.  Once I correctly turned left the footpaths seemed to have been deliberately arranged in a series of celtic knots just to confuse me. Heathland footpath divides Had I always taken the right fork I would have arrived at my intended point on the Forest Road, the crossroads leading to Acres Down and Newtown.  I did sometimes.  But not always. When I noticed a cairn I had passed yesterday I didn’t know whether to be pleased or not.  CairnThis could either mean everything had gone horribly wrong or I was on the right track.  As confirmed by a pair of familiar rowan trees a bit further along, it was a bit of both.  I did emerge more or less on Forest Road, but not at my targeted crossroads.  I arrived at the Forestry Commission gate at the path to the lakes that I had gone through too early yesterday, about fifty or sixty yards from the A31. Well, I wasn’t going back along the road to the Newtown crossroads, so I retraced my steps alongside the major road, continuing rather precariously after the footpath petered out by Little Chef.  This earned me a ship’s foghorn blast from a huge lorry.  I think that was rather unnecessary.  After all, the traffic was nowhere near as fast as usual, when the slipstream blows you off your feet, and I was wading through brambles at the time.  The speed restriction was because of an accident that had slowed things up.  An ambulance crew in  a lay-by were checking out two unhurt young Asians gazing wistfully at the bashed-in offside front wing of their sprauncy red car.  Don’t ask me what make it was.  Be satisfied that I even noticed the colour.  One medic emerged from some bushes carrying what must once have been a bright new, red, bumper.  ‘There’s no need for that to be in the road’, he said to me. Unbeknown to me Helen and Bill had passed me on the A31 on their way to Castle Malwood Lodge.  They drew level with me as I walked down Upper Drive.  This time they offered me a lift.  I declined, reasoning that I could probably make it across our lawn.  As we all walked into our flat together Jackie informed me that she had just sent me a text asking if I wanted a lift.  She knew that, after yesterday, there was no way I would ask for one, yet it was getting a little late.  Had that come earlier I could have done with it.  My left calf is complaining somewhat of overwork. My one-time-sister-and-brother-in-law stayed for a pleasant conversation about Lincoln and its environs, where they had been on holiday and once lived, and which I know quite well. This evening Jackie and I dined on her  marvellous mixed meat stew with no apparent trace of sausage, followed by gooseberry and rhubarb crumble and custard.

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