June 1st, Walk 5, Barrington to Maldon. Susan Griffiths gamely came with us and we were rewarded with an auspicious start in Barrington with three wonders – King Arthur himself couldn’t have done better.
A smug and stately procession of tractors.
A wild boar rampaging over a straw roof.
A birthday party in Rapunzel’s tower. (The ordnance survey says a converted mill, but we could see plainly there were windows and no stair.)
We joined the river just past Barrington,
gliding out of a green tunnel of willows under a fierce sign saying ‘no trespassing’. It was an omen we should have taken more notice of.
We turned the other way, scarcely more welcoming, through a bed of nettles, a herd of bullocks, a riot of hawthorn.
The journey continues along the year as well as the river: everywhere the intense green of early summer, the meadow flowers a battleground of colour, a regiment of marching teasels, plantains like exploding cannonballs.
Someone had carefully planted a wood, complete with nature notes, since the makers of our elderly ordnance survey map had been there. But they didn’t let us get too close to the river: a scummy pond (why? Who’d left the scum there? Flanders and Swan should investigate) and a sparkling clean drainage ditch.
Further on, the map promised us an ancient earthworks with a moat. Two large bullocks persuaded us not to investigate.
We should have been told, but we pressed on, until the river slyly turned a corner and left us behind as it sauntered off through a manicured golf course. A lady in a bright pink shell suit whacked the ball out of sight. Our last view of the river was of a jaunty duck showing us its backside.
Home along a proper footpath (nearly), past a house sign that asked an ontological question:
‘Do you really know where you’ve been? Do you even know the name of the road you’re taking? ’ Well, that’s why we’re going on the journey. Next time, if the river ever escapes from its dalliance with golfers, we’ll follow it to Wimpole Hall.