Thursday, 9 June 2016

Berkeley: A Bit of a Bitter Pill


Finding myself in Berkeley at six in the morning, with three hours to spare before I had to take my father to an appointment back in Bristol, I decided to go for a walk along Berkeley Pill from the village to the River Severn and back - an excursion of around three and a half miles. 

It was just over five years since Ted, my dog, and I had last walked this route, as part of a longer walk. It was good seeing familiar landmarks again, like the old mill on the opposite bank of the pill ... 


... and the massive cattle, this time the other side of a fence. Phew. 

They reminded me of a ditty I wrote about Ted that day, while I was walking along. It's at the end of this post. 


Two months later in the season and instead of cattle and mud, there was an excess of vegetation to contend with. It didn't look like anyone had maintained the footpath at all - if, indeed, there was a footpath in there somewhere. 


In no time, Ted and I were soaked. But being intrepid jaunters, we weren't about to abandon a walk on account of dew - oh no. 


Here's something you don't see very often - a wooden squeeze-belly. 

There were plenty of birds about - I saw a family of goldfinches taking off from a thorn tree, a skylark on a post, and a heron in flight, all trailing legs and looking just like that lanky nine year old girl at primary school who not only won every running race going but also turned out to be effortlessly good at high jump the very first time we were made to try it.  



The sheep weren't that impressed by Ted.


In fact, this one only bothered to wake up when we were almost on top of it. It did have the good grace to move off, looking a little ... sheepish.


Meanwhile, Ted and I were encountering padlocked gates ...


... and nettle-infested stiles - which I managed to negotiate on both legs of the walk without getting stung, while Ted, who doesn't know he can jump, was reduced to crawling on his belly under the gates. 


This gate leading to Berkeley Nuclear Power Station wasn't very welcoming either but we didn't care to go there. 




The tide was in at the estuary, but it had taken me twice as long to get there as I'd envisaged, on account of having to wade through long grass, so there was no time to hang about. 



On the return leg, as the narrow path wound along the very edge of the pill, I mistook the grass, brambles and stingers to one side for solid ground and found myself falling into a hole that must have been almost four feet deep. It took me two attempts to climb back out, clinging onto handfuls of tussocks, while Ted grunted at me in consternation. 

Nothing broken, thankfully, but I was badly stung by nettles, covered in scratches, and my big toe, already plagued with arthritis, was quite badly strained. All smugness gone, I limped and squelched back to the car while Ted slid me withering collie glances.  





   


Canis Suburbanus

for Ted

I remember the day we fetched you from the farm. How
the driver had to brake hard as a cow 
came charging into the lane

harried by a three-headed hound from hell
snarling and snapping at its heels,
then peeling apart into a trio of border collies

the last one swinging by its teeth
from the beast’s fraying tail, all four paws feet 
from the ground.

How they would smirk, your rural relations,
to see you pressed to my side amongst cattle the size
of static caravans

and no more menacing. You who would sooner herd
bikes and joggers, who growls once the gate is safely
shut. 


Deborah Harvey © 2011




2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Martin. Tumbling around the country, as usual ... :-)

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