My plans to tread the ground in Barcelona, Bali and Australia this year haven’t quite come off. Infact, I’ve travelled no further than 20 miles from home – often on foot, thereby emulating my 18th century forebearers who probably wouldn’t have wandered more than 10 miles from their front door – in their lifetime.
And there’s something very comforting about zooming in on my local neighbourhood, noticing the small changes: buds that’ve opened like hands; the smell of newly cut grass; a marmalade cat sunning itself on a car roof.
Once restrictions are lifted, however, I dig out my unused charity shop purchase: ‘100 Best Walks in Dorset’ and persuade son to roam with me.
For our first outing we can’t resist the enticing prospect of walk number 38 encompassing Shitterton and the River Piddle. Let’s just say that Shitterton does not live up to its name – it defies it. A gorgeous elbow of pastel thatch cottages, its airbrushed perfection has us wishing we could move in.
We’re doing quite well on walk 38 until we reach the instruction: ‘go left through a small steel gate.’
“There’s the barn…” says son pointing to a 40ft high farm building. “So the gate should be here…”
“That’s definitely a cow.” You’d think he’d know that – being a scientist an’ all. I hate cows.
“Maybe it’s a shape shifting cow?”
Undeterred, we limbo under a fence, surprising a hare who gives us a look that loosely interpreted reads: ‘What the fuck?’ I feel your pain hare. How can a steel gate disappear into thin air?
Walk number 38, however, ends in culinary heaven at the scout hut in Bere Regis where a woman – nay, faery of the first order – is whipping up bubble pancakes topped with banoffee pie flavoured Purbeck ice-cream from a tiny vintage caravan.
On the car journey home son decides to read our walk book more closely:
“Mother, how long have you had this book?”
“It says here ‘published in 2006.’”
Fourteen years is probably long enough for a steel gate to disappear – or shape shift into a cow.