Ampfield Woods to Romsey…

group-smiles-

happy boys and girls


Ampfield forest is a fair harbour for our new group of four. Susie’s new tarpaulin home is soon strung up, and after a first night’s classic downpour, in which she enjoys her first night of wet feet, it is swiftly re-strung and tightened.

Read on….

suzy-tarp-ampfield3

spider web floating tent

We feast our new company, the local butcher and greengrocer keeping our cookpots full and bubbling. Bittercress, jack of the hedge, and wild garlic are all found here in great abundance. Special nettles are also found.

three-pronged-nettle-tess-walk-20.4.09

3 pronged nettle

ed-office-awbridge

Ed's office

For two nights we stay in this forest, visiting the pub to sing for bread and butter, hunting the woods for lakes in which to swim and wash.

lake-ampfield-forest

lakeside

Will loses his spectacles, and is sure they are deep in a muddy puddle over which he leapt foolishly in the rain.

will-and-bluebells-a-comin-3

Will minces through the wod, half-blind

The next day, walking to fetch water, Will and Susie scour the forest all over for a good running stream. But none is found, only tea-brown brackish trickles. They ask the local forestry-commission worker if he knows of any good water sources, but he only scowls and mutters, before sloping away to tend his machinery.

So back to Hursely we stamp, to the local school, where friendly builders direct us to the outdoor tap. And on the way back, there propped upon the footbridge lie Will’s muddy but intact glasses, which return to him his scientifically-perfected eagle vision.

alum-flower3-post-ampfield

Alum, the hooded silent one

We spend a late night in the public house, the Kings Arms in Hursely, and on returning to camp we have great trouble in finding our place.

Lost in the night-time woodlands we are. Ed and Will strive off in straight lines, deeper into the trees, and their laser targeting may take us all closer to the camp, but also miss it completely. We loop around, and find ourselves precisely where we left the footpath. Hmmm…

birch-ampfield4

Birches sway above

So we try again, and this time Susie and Ayla’s feminine detail-aware vision take us all home. Susi spies a primrose which she recognized from daytime wanderings, and this leads us in the right direction. Ayla then spots the fallen birch from which we were earlier cutting bark, to dry as tinder.

ayla-birchbark-art-ampfield

Ayla's birchbark art

birch-bark-tinder

Nothing gets the flmes rising, quite like B.B.

birch-bark-tinder-3

Dried, and ready to start bonny fires

Just beyond this…our little home is found, to great joy, and our unhappy suspicions of shuffling under a bush for the night are happily dashed. We fall to deep and fretless sleep.

Ampfield forest gives us a strange dense time of settlement, of not moving at all. So it is very refreshing to move onward from the forest, toward Romsey town.

ayla-suzy-ampfield

Susie and Ayla in their woodland power

ed-oak-pre-ropmsey

Ed meets a great pathside ally

eas-leave-ampfield

Off they go a roaming

As we leave, we find evidence of the forestry commissions careful nurturing of British woodland.

forestry-commission-ampfield

Woodland idyll, c/o Forestry Commission

forestry-commission-ampfield4

Another pleasant vista

Down green lanes, finding speedwell in the walls, and huge oaks all baubled with mistletoe, we go.

speedwell3-post-ampfield

Speedwell, ye valiant ones, your time is struck

Honesty grows bankside as we walk.

Honesty-bankside-before-romsey-15.4.09

Honesty, a sign of gardener's integrity

Romsey bodes well, as people wave happily at us on our approach. “This must be friendly land” we state, “for it is expressing itself in good greeting people”.

pre-ropmsey-gang

Romsey massive

Around a fair corner, the footpath has been burst through by a mighty oak.

oak-in-path-romsey

The good will out...

oak-flowering-2

Flowering oak ...

We then find a kiddies’ climbing wall in a playpark, where we stop to ascend the presented challenge. We have no flags to plant when we get there.

rock-wall-outside-romsey

The heights of Romsey

rock-wall-outside-romsey-4

Ed atop the great summit

ayla-romsey4

Ayla, the monster at the centre of the web...

ayla-romsey6

Ayla after eating a small man, caught in her web

suzy-romsey

Susie, destryoer of worlds...

And onward, to briefly meet a lady who is walking a Japanese warrior dog – “a noble samurai” she tells us, “but a naughty boy too…”. We find silverweed by a wall, so situated as to seem an ideal place for the locals to pass water (piss). This might explain the silverweed’s extraordinary size, we imagine, the nitrogen and other salt-richness of the soil.

silverweed2-romsey

Silverweed, as handled by Susie

A suburban glade, between the outskirts and the heart of town, is next met. A sparkling river runs through it, and here we are forced to stop and ponder awhile, unsure why it is so uniquely pleasant. We realize suddenly it is the urban scenario, coupled with the absolute lack of any litter. It is quite a shocking thing to enjoy, and we wish for plenty more such surprises.

Walking along into town, Will spots a opened packet of choc digestives on the wall. He slows, then thinks better. But the girls behind have less scruples, and we detect in their unsubtle silences that something is going on. We turn, and the crumbs are falling from their mouths in their haste to keep this potentially unhygienic treat a secret.

smiles

Grinning in Suburbia

Entering Romsey, we head to central town, to sing awhile outside the now-empty Woolworths.

busking-romsey-3

From the vibrant centre comes forth a noise we call 'folk'

busking-romsey-7

and more of the same...

busking-woolworths-romsey-2

an ode to Penny Sweets and Plastic Kettles

singing-sign

An exotic destination

Come lunchtime, with pockets all a-jangling with gold and silver, the cathedral, a massive gothic lump of religious stone, is our picnic venue.

romsey-abbey

A gloomy lump of stone

romsey-picnic2

Picnic is here

Do you want a riddle?

romsey-words

Local poetry, embedded in the concrete

We sing as we eat, and a kind lady who is sat hidden in the hedges bench behind us, pops up as we tidy away to tell us “those pigeons were out of tune with you.” We wonder if this is an innocuous observation, or some wise way of telling us that our songs are out of joint with nature.

Then the girls head toward the nearby woodlands of Awbridge, and we sit to catch up on our internet workings. The Telegraph article is out tomorrow, and we are keen that our album, still not yet available on CD, is at least up for download. This, with a great deal of frantic telephoning, we manage to achieve, via our good friend Jake and Pondlife Studios. The girls leave first, and we catch them up a few hours later, after dark. It is Susie’s birthday tomorrow, and her sister is coming to visit, so we’re due a celebration feast again. Lean times are becoming seldom, it seems.

Dark falls, and Ed and Will head toward where we think we’ll find the women. We get hideous lost in a simple pig field, to eventually squeeze ourselves through an improbable hole in the hedge.

ed-hole-hedge-pre-awbridge3

Ed and the small hole

Our call-whistles are eventually answered, and we 4 are re-united, together with Susie’s sister Joy, and her sleeping son Rowan.

We stay here in Awbridge for the next 2 nights. Joy has brought an insane amount of food with her, which Ayla crafts into a banoffee pie, using her best woodland utensils.

ayla-whisking-2

Woodland whisks

Young Rowan is a great prompt for us to build dens, and weapons, and other such boyish toys.

rowan-ahelter-awbridge4

Rowan and the lean-to

Rowan is a little nervous at first of our proximity to someone else’s land. But we assure him we will do no damage, and if they find us here, and decide to ask us to move on, we shall simply do so, with neither aggravation nor dismay. He becomes steadily reassured.

rowan-balanace2

A moment of great balance


But Susie’s main birthday gift from her sister, a huge djembe drum, we vote to leave in the car, or we’ll be located in no time at all. “I won’t play it, not loudly” she assures us. “I’ll only tap it a little bit…” But birthday or not, we know Susie, and she’ll soon have the whole woods dancing to her rhythms. So in the car it stays, and we only feel a little like birthday fascists.

susie-photoshoot-3

Susie Ro, all woodland magikal...

girls-awbridge-lake

cheeky sirens

girls-swim6

Breaking the water's surface

Susie and Ayla brave the cold lake for a swim, and being dreddlocked, they fear for the drying of their tubed hair. So an improvised swimming cap is made, which Susie dons to great and stylish effect. Can you guess what is is yet?

suzy-condom4

Safety first

We stay here another day and a night, photographing ferns, playing music, singing and relaxing. We all eat too much, which is a pleasant (if gluttonous) change.

susie's-world

Susie draws a map of her homeland


fern-ampfield

strong as green-things

fern-awbridge

angelic surprise

fern-awbridge9

questing, tightening, and unwrapping ferns

ferns-unfolding-romsey-river-tess-woodland-20.4.09-no2

the dance of 4

ferns-unfolding-romsey-river-tess-woodland-20.4.09-no6

coiling galaxies

ferns-unfolding-romsey-river-tess-woodland-20.4.09-no7

reaching heavenwards, they awaken

And then back to Romsey we go, to buy ourselves a copy of this morning’s Telegraph, on which we find ourselves well written-of.

Paul Kingsnorth is an excellent writer, able to pluck the human hearts of those who read his words. We are glad we said yes to such an able scribe, such a gifted tale-teller.

The café man, whose coffee we celebratingly drink, proudly pulls out his copy – “Look, it’s you lot!” he exclaims. And in the local health food shop, while buying spices to augment our habitual one-pot stews, we meet an old boy who saw us busking 2 days back. He says he feels it is his duty to buy us all 2 flapjacks, to do his bit to help. This newspaper article is doing us well…it even causes the health food lady to agree to exchange some pots of non-petroleum jelly (for chafing skin) for a song, a bargain we swiftly agree to make.

And, unable to resist a quick busk on the busy market street, we find, while singing, that a car stops, and a pretty young girl rushes out to ask for our autographs on her copy of the offending paper. It’s fun, this brief spotlit moment, but probably a dangerous game too. Ego rattles bigger in its skull-bound cage, and threatens to overspill into vanity.

gang-romsey-gate

Again, leaving Romsey...

So to the woods we venture, to picnic amongst the wood-spurge.

wood-spurge-woodland-floor-outside-winchester-14.04.09-no2

Wood spurge

wood-spurge-woodland-floor-outside-winchester-14.04.09-no3

the drooping leaves of wood spurge

chilling-with-girls-in-woods

pickanicka

suzy-awbridge-bday6

The Green Woman is known

Will stalks an American pheasant, using techniques taught him by a Gypsy fellow some years back, and is able to step right up to the glorious head-hooded bird without alarming it. He has his catapault and stones, but decides the life of such a trusting bird is best spared, for others to enjoy. Besides, we have plenty of food, so such a kill would be made without need, and would probably lead to bad things returning to him.

Leaving the woods, the girls and Edward sit alongside an oaken tump, which Susie manages to fall from. It is, to us, funnier than it probably sounds.

From here we leave the woods, in which the bluebells are all arising, and we walk along toward some new grounds to sleep.

bluebells-a-comin

Bluebell women

pig-field-near-awbridge

a mixture of elements

We photograph each others’ portraits in the golden light of sunset, and everyone looks radiant and handsome, even us haggard and bedraggled boys. Ho-hum.

sign-ayla

Ayla a-glow

sign-william

Will a-grinn

sign-ed

Ed a-gammy

sign-susie

Susie a-glorious

sunset-oak-awbridge

sunset through the trees

girls-pig-awbridge5

The girls practise their charm

We walk toward somewhere our maps tell us might make for good sleep, and find St George’s mushrooms and Marsh marigold on our way.

st-george's-mushrooms-tess-valley-mown-lawn-21.04.09-no5

Will nibbles the prize

st-george's-mushrooms-tess-valley-mown-lawn-21.04.09-no1

Silver apples of the moon

Marsh-marigold-tess-way-21.04.09-no2

Marsh Marigold

Marsh-marigold-tess-way-21.04.09-no5

Marsh Marigold at home

Also, a mighy chestnut has fallen across the footpath here, which makes progress temporarily tricksy.

And then, strolling along the country lane, a small car pulls up. A chap in army fatigues winds his windows down, and asks us where we’re going. Being slightly protective of the girls, we two step up, and make non-descript answers. But this man, Bryan, sees through our protective ruses for their good intentions, and cuts straight to the point. “Look, there’s nowhere good for camping up that way. But if you turn about, and walk to the village, I’ve got a farm, and a barn, with facilities that would cost you thousands if you were the paying type. You’re welcome to come and stay with me the night.”

Such an offer is not lightly given, and we would be churlish to refuse it.

So toward the farm we go, and find it is a place we would not have missed for the world, had we known of it previously.

mandylion2

Mandylion, protector of all

There are long-haired sheep, rams, ducks, chuckens, goats, a newly planted fruit and nut wood, and a hand-built green-oak barn, in which we are invited to stay.

ed-green-man-barn-surpriseg

Ed surprised by his good fortune

ayla-arthur-rubbing

Ayla scratches Arthur's itch

ayla-arthur-rubbing12

Arthur is relentless, in the good way of goats

As soon then as we have relaxed, unpacked, and marvelled at such fortune, Bryan sits us down, feeds us blood-red wine, and begins to expound oak-wood knowledge.

oak2

Quercus

ayla-spinning-in-barn-4

Beside the spinning wheel, they plot good things for all

girls-felt4

felt is made

Initially, he follows each statement with the caveat: “now, you may think I’m loopy…”, but after enough times of our saying “please, no, just continue, we are here to learn” he gets his flow going. And then for many an hour we are sat at his feet, learning the roots of old words, old ways, mysteries we had not thought uncoverable. It is a fine time.

will-ed-woods-post-romsey

the moody ones try on a little wisdom

mug-wisdom2

the mug, bottom upwards, lists the necessary evolutions of us all

FOR EXAMPLE: Hazel will live forever, if man is there to tend and coppice it. Mistletoe is known as Viscum Alba, or sticky white cum, the cycle of the year and the days of the week are not meaninglessly given, Brittania is a woman, the sea is a man who enters her land at certain points, the salmon is the sperm who swims upstream to fertilize, or eat, the hazelnut, Jesus was called Jeshu, born in the sign of the Lion, which is why the Romans, masters of irony, threw early Christians to the lions…

And much more.

And then, come morning, Ayla starts us all carding and spinning wool, which Bryan supplies like magic from his store. This soone branches into felt-making, and we also gut and cook a road-kill pheasant that Bryan brings back, initially claiming it is too mangled for human food, and only good for the buzzards. But Ayla, with guidance and a piece of sharp flint, pops the breasts of the bird out, and we all eat barbecued game, which is delicious.

pheasant-gutting-at-bryans-2

Ayla gets stuck-in

pheasant-gutting-at-bryans-3

Digging out the breasts

pheasant-gutting-at-bryans-5

Slish and slash, release the meat

pheasant-gutting-at-bryans-7

The freed flesh

Feltmaking-at-bryans-3

Fleeces, donated by Bryan

Feltmaking-at-bryans-5

carding the threads

Feltmaking-at-bryans-6

Ayla applies hot water

Will gives himself a good deep cut with his blade, and silently retreats to the nettles behind the barn to let-blood. He begins to feel light-headed, and so squats down, which helps immensely. As he is sat there, dripping blood, he watches a buzzard rise up from the woodlands.

At first, it soars up easily, yet gently, until also rising from the treetops come two crows, to harry it. They knock the buzzard, interfere with his wingstrokes, craw and hassle him. But the buzzard continues to rise, ignoring them, focussing on flight, and eventually, as distance is made from the woods, the crows circle away and return to the tree-tops, and the buzzard’s ascent is made. Away he flies.

Will wonders the meaning of this vision, shown when blood was being lost so steadily, and it brings to mind the words of an email sent in by a Telegraph reader: “Do not be beguiled by your gathering fame”. Perhaps, he thinks, this buzzard’s flight represents our journey, and the crows represent the harbingers who will gravitate toward it. Will hopes that this walk will soar toward its necessary heights as well as the buzzard managed, by ignoring the fretful interference of the crows, that come to tangle in our wings.

We spend a fine pair of days here, before leaving, with great sadness, to walk on toward Salisbury. Bryan, we learn as we leave, is writing a book, for which we hope a publisher will be found.

ed-woods-post-romsey

Rushing Edward rises higher

group-smiles-3

goodnight from us

8 Responses to “Ampfield Woods to Romsey…”

  1. Terry Tonik says:

    Wear do ye be my fine fellows, Wales is it for wintering?

  2. Bob says:

    Hey,
    Have been following your adventures with great pleasure, and have been often deeply moved.
    Where could ye be this bright night …. ?
    B x

  3. angela says:

    No news from our wandering minstrels for ages! Where are you guys now?? I look shall await your journal updates with much interest:)

  4. Terry Tonik says:

    Well spotted!
    Attributed to Taliesin in the Welsh tradition ( Can y Gwent )

  5. emma says:

    Hello all. Your journey looks so beautiful. I wanted to relate a sleepy conversation i had with Nazca recently in the geodesic dome that i now live in as he was drifting off one night. Wondering if i had done the right thing by leaving the house and moving into a slightly damp dome (the fire is now fitted and its toasty warm and delicious!) i was asking him

    “do you like living in a dome or would you rather live in a house Naz?”

    Mummy, i want to sleep in a bush!

    (confusion) what on earth are you talking about Nazca?

    You know, those men who sleep in bushes!

    Oh Ed and Will you mean?

    Yes mummy, I want to sleep in a bush like them!

    Wishing you all good things and thinking of you very much. Love Em

  6. Terry Tonik says:

    Unriddle me this, if you can.

    I was before God’s flood
    Without flesh or vein or bone.
    Headless, footlessly I stride
    Nothing’s child, never born
    When my breath stills, I am not dead
    No older now, nor ever young
    I have no need of beast or man.

    Sea-whitener, forest piercer
    Handless I touch a whole field
    Time’s partner, youth’s partaker
    Wide as the wide earth is wide
    Unequalled, masterless, never prisoner
    Landless, invisible and blind
    Solitary and brash of manner
    Gentle, murderous and without sin
    I am no repairer of disorder
    I am wet and dry and weak and strong
    What am I that the cold moon fosters
    And the ardour of the sun?

  7. angela says:

    I was very interested in your observations of the buzzard being chased by the crows as I watched a similar “vision” over my garden near Winchester a few weeks ago. I’m now wondering what Greater Meaning this might have for me! Love all your pics and comments underneath which are oft-times touching and also comical:-) Keep having fun and absorbing good woodland wisdom and lore; sharing this with others of us less adventurous folk!

Leave a Reply