“Do you fancy a walk?” said the chipper voice on the land line. “Sure” I said without hesitation not realizing what I had just agreed to. A walk in the UK is an adventure of a different kind!
I had been staying in this rustic cottage, part stone, part brick on a rural homestead in Wales. There were two neighbors within walking distance but the place was very isolated. It was just me, the twin cats, a pheasant, an owl, thousands of birds, the wind and sky, the stars and the moon quite literally. About two weeks in, I see this salt and pepper head bob outside the window and even more startled to see this person walking in. There are no locks on the doors.
“Hya”, says Sally in her thick accent. “Ima friend, come by to see how yer gettin’ on”. We sat for a few hours drinking tea. We took turns sharing a bit about ourselves and our lives. We talked travel, nutrition, healing energy and the way of the wild and we sat in silence watching the birds on the feeders. We were instant friends.
The next day, she calls and invites me for a “walk” and promptly picks me up in her custom rig, a van with two seats, a rear with room to walk around, wooden shelves holding various items of outdoor attire and camping gear, a shelf that was padded for resting and in the corner was a wooden covered box that she described as The Bog.
It was her on board toilet.
We drove a bit and she pointed out various places of interest before arriving at parking area where “we will meet the others”. Gradually a group of men and women gathered and put on their walking coats, donned on their gaiters and grabbed their walking sticks while I just stood there in my suede boots, leggings and flannel jacket. I did have a fancy walking stick though! Sally seeing that I was ill prepared offered a coat and scarf but her boots did not fit. There were about 20 or so smiling happy faces when we started but within minutes I fell behind and Sally and two other women slowed down to stay with me but the others were getting too far ahead and it was evident that soon we would lose the others. Running up ahead, Sally told the group leader that they should carry on without us. I was crushed and embarrassed that I was a hindrance and ruining Sally’s walk. But she said, "No it’s alright, we will walk. We will just do it on our own at our own pace."
We started off on marked paths and public walkways into the open fields. Sally explained that all of this land at one point had been part of an estate and were now divided into private and public lands.
Dead tree/Living tree
We walked through areas of dense trees and brush, crossed over streams and over fences and cattle grates where I promptly slipped and fell. Everything was wet and muddy. That squishy goodness made me feel like a child as Sally continued to tell me the wonders of this land. The wind was chilly and I could feel my feet and nose going numb but my heart was alive and warm. Who was this incredible woman who had come into my life?
As we walked we stopped often and Sally educated me not only on the history of lands but the history of the vegetation, the diseases and periods that had and were changing the landscape. She knew the names of nearly every plant and tree. At one point we found a patch of wild garlic and we harvested two bags full. I had no knowledge of what it was or what is was used for. The very next day she came back with a large pot of soup and a fresh bunch for me to try my hand with. It was delicious.
Two hour old Spring lambs!
I was fascinated by her and everything she shared with me on the three days we shared time together. She had an incredible outlook on life and yes, I was envious. She appreciated everything in that natural world. She lived a very simple life. Previously in healthcare, she too had chosen the path of life care. She brought me a book on our last day and told me she was off to spend some time in Scotland. I asked her permission to write and share the photos and she laughed a bit embarrassed adding that it was my life and I was free to share it with anyone I chose, just as we had. I never saw or heard from her again but our time was enough.