Forest Child.

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Today’s word is track.

Some say those that were born here have … the thing. The magic of the forest, sap running through veins, nooks and crannies, corners that hold secrets. A quirky look at life, grounded in soil and mulch.

I was born of this place, in the cottage hospital on the edge of Savernake forest. An ancient wood 2750 acres of mystery and as you would expect history. As a child, I once was found sleeping at the foot of the Great Bellied Oak.

Fred liked to walk with his girls through the forest, when time allowed,The youngest would no doubt need carrying before the track had stopped its meandering. The day was sunny and all was lush, branches flicked light this way and that, birdsong was full-throated all in all he thought, its a good day for a walk.

Me, the three-year-old, me, loved to walk the most, but my chubby legs would not always keep up with the want to finish. That was when Daddy’s arms helped out and shoulder high I would grab his ears to hold on and soak in the atmosphere. Shafts of light threw colours or that was what Dad said, I knew it was something special. My sisters four and six didn’t really want to walk but we all loved Daddy and his treats. The story goes that I had held daddy’s hand until we stopped to share a picnic; a bag of Smiths crisps with a twist of salt and a bottle of Orangina. Three straws he pulled from his handkerchief pocket we sat on Dads tweed Jacket three little bums; eyes as big as saucers. Once the feast was over we stood so he could shake his Jacket. Like a magician, he pulled a white paper bag stuffed with soft Pontefract cakes from his cap. I remember how we oohed and ahhed, how he did the Dad magic, producing a perfect round Pontefract coin from behind our ears.

This is where our stories differ, (Dad’s version) the sisters playing chase ran off the track, I couldn’t keep up my legs were far to short for his turn of foot. So he told me to wait and not move from the spot and he’d return as quickly as he could. (My recollection) My feet could not go fast enough as I was swept behind a frightened Dad through the forest, my hands wet from licking the liquorice from my fingers slipped free, and I fell with a bump. When I woke Dad was not there, I was laying on a bed of moss at the foot of the Giant oak. A voice whispered as I sat up; ‘do not be afraid child, we forest folk always look after our own.’ I looked around but could not see anything more than a wisp of colour flash by my head. Daddy, with one sister under each arm, was struggling to walk and calling my name. I told a very cross face that he wasn’t to worry his head, the forest folk took great care of me, when you were gone.

Our stories have like Chinese whispers altered with the years, but last week was the first time I returned to that spot. Now a road is next to the Old Big Bellied Oak, and the A346 south of Caudley trundles caravans and cars by oblivious to the magic.

Were you born somewhere magical? Or have you visited such a magical place? leave me a comment I love to converse.

A Little Wind Wreaks Havoc.

Thank you Sue Vincent for this weeks picture prompt go ūüĒúhereūüĒô to join Thursdays #writephotoprompt smoke.

 

A strange smell hung over the village it had done so for most of the summer; bad eggs, that’s the nearest I could Identify it as. Mornings around ten O’clock it was at its worst, and if the summer breeze wafted your way you knew it. People stopped hanging their linen out and they kept the windows firmly shut. The local shop took a bomb of money selling airfreshners, scented oil bottles the expensive ones with reeds. When they had a huge delivery of oscillating fans, which incidentally sold out in two days; suspicions arose. Fingers were pointed directly at the village postmistress who was the only one not complaining, and the only one rubbing her hands together behind the counter in our village store.

Emergency meetings were held in secret down the allotments, neighbourhood watch was only watching one place. Only Farmer Longstockings was ¬†unbothered, he said “country folk should be used to country smells” refusing to join the village folks scuttle butting and finger wagging. Farmer Longstockings was now suspect no.two.

I loved it when folk came up to bluebell woods to gaze on the blanket of colour that spilt down the bank and mingled with pink orchids. Groups of camera clutching walkers kissed by the sun and happy to be part of a flora and fauna celebration. I made scones and best home made jams, we sold them at the village hall, the monies raised paid for the  party at harvest festival time. Several of us took part bringing sandwiches pasties and bottles of chilled cider. Some of the lads would charge three pounds to take them to the woods, they would give an elaborately expanded story on how they came to be. But this year our month of lucrative money-making seemed to be in jeopardy.

The scout group were making stench masks to sell when the visitors arrive, some bought up the dolly pegs from the shop and became peg wearing investigators with bandannas over their mouths. It wasn’t long before the scoutmaster took badges away for scaring the three pensioners in the Almshouses… No. Three on the suspect list.

One bright morning a gentle breeze hummed across the rickety bridge where I liked to sketch and gaze at the water, but with it came the stench and tails of pure white smoke.I covered my nose with a confiscated peg put on my sunglasses and followed the tails that licked the blue sky. ¬†Beyond the bluebell woods past the copse of silver birch was a cave it was once a mine; it was said that it never produced much, a few fossils and semi-precious stones. There were tales of magic and folklore surrounding the cave, but mostly it was on private farm land (suspect no.two) ¬†and unsafe. None the less it was time this was sorted and I believed it would be down to me to do so. Just as I thought in the distance I could see it curling as if from a chimney out of the mouth of the cave. My childhood memories of the tales came rushing back I hadn’t believed them at six so why did they make me tremble at a fully grown seventeen. A resting place for the last dragon my Father had told me, and of secret trysts and growls that came from below. Then there was the eerie light and fog that sometimes was seen from across the miles. What if…

Farmer Longstockings had spotted me, I watched him turn the rusted tractor in my direction, now I was… concerned, but as I was almost an adult I straightened my back and ploughed on. ¬†Philip had spotted the smoke trail and guessed that maybe his ole snout was so used to stink that he could no longer smell, but his eyes made him suspicious. We arrived at the same time “Farmer Longstockings” I nodded my head and planted my feet with a stomp. “Philip! yer too long in the leg to not use my given name”. ¬†He pushed his hat to the back of his head, wiped his eyes with a bit of scrim, they ¬†were streaming as he gazed up at the gentle wisps emanating from ten feet above us.

“This is no task for a young lady, you go see the missus an tell her to send Toby with the big chains”. ¬†Off I went pleased to get away from the vomit-inducing stench. Toby was the Longstockings son that hadn’t seen me since I was a child. He must be home for the summer, he’d been away at horticulture college for two years and the thought of actually seeing him made my heart beat most peculiarly.

Ann wasn’t as pleased to have me disturbing her chores and didn’t relish me talking to her son; that much was apparent. Three hours passed before they returned, wet, dirty and very smelly. They had capped the opening to stop the escape of sulphuric smoke that came from way beneath the earth. Philip phoned a geologist who would work with him and supervise the fitting of a permanent plug. Together they’d make ¬†safe the cave ¬†over the next few weeks. Before I left we had agreed that less said soonest mended would be the order of the day.

Bluebell month was glorious, and a new romance blossomed between Toby and me. That Summer I filled my bottom drawer in preparation… items purchased with monies earned from my book. The Tale of The Last Dragon. The story came about one summer’s day when a little wind wreaked Havoc.