Some centuries ago near Tollard Royal

“Dull sublunary lovers’ love…”

This tree has begun to take root with me.

I’d taken some wrong turns on my solo hike. I began to find my bearings again. I was about a mile from a pretty stone-built village with a church, bus shelter and a public phone, where I’d agreed to rendezvous with a man at the end of his day’s golf at Tollard Royal for a lift back to the Compasses Inn. It was in 2013.

Following my nose, not any path, I descended from a ridge. I called to a young man seated in the yard of a huge farmhouse, and I asked the way to the village. He was well spoken. The impressive building was clearly centuries old.

I thanked him and about a half mile further and 50 yards off and to the left of the single track tree-lined lane stood the majestic tree in this photo.

The sense of its obvious undamaged longevity, its benign warmth and silent fertility, made me direct all of my attention to it. A mare and foal were nearby.

I caught something of its own ancient yet fresh pleasure at being safe and well for so very long in this particular place.

Five years later, I took the time to scrutinise Google Maps. I used Terrain and Satellite view on my smartphone. I followed remembered landmarks, beginning with the golf course near Tollard Royal,where my lift was coming from.

With the confirmation of Street View, and recall of the scenes I had stopped to photograph in the little village, in under an hour I found my tree!

It stands halfway between Berwick St John and the ancient farmhouse, which sits at the foot of a ridge – part of a watershed valley – at the end of Woodland Lane.

I cannot forget the friendliness I felt during the short time we were in each other’s company.

I long to say hallo again. Now I know I can. The round rip by bus will take only half a day.

… To Be Continued

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