Date Walked 16th December 2012
Approximate distance: 2 miles
Terrain. Flat wide paths with gently slopes. One very short section by the road
Starting point: Entrance to Fedw Wood, near Devauden, between Devauden and St Arvans
This is a walk that Anne has started doing on her own in the winter for want of exercise. On it she takes recordings of “In our Time” (which, of course is hardly ever about anything near our time). It’s not my idea of exercise, which, as I have tried to persuade her, involves a much brisker pace than she wishes to walk at and the raising of one’s heartbeat. But there is no persuading her. So when I go, I think of it as time for a bit of fresh air and a chat.
We leave the car right at the entrance to the wood. This is not where you are supposed to leave it as there is a perfectly good car parking area further down the wide track from the Forestry Commission sign. But leaving it where we do means that we think people are less likely to break into the car.
From the entrance to the wood the broad path reaches the car parking area and then splits with one way heading left for The Cot. We take the right hand path and I fail to take a picture of Anne’s favourite rocks. They are big lumps of conglomerate, our local stone.
With so much rain having fallen, the ditch on the right hand side of the path has become a stream. This is one of those walks which are popular with families and dog walkers as neither (like Anne really) are very concerned about the exercise value (apart, that is, for their dog, or possibly child, who they might hope will subsequently go to sleep better later).
It being Christmas we talk about our latest software disasters and about Christmas menus. My iPhone has stopped talking to ITunes since its latest update (why on earth ITunes has to get updates every 5 minutes is beyond me- it feels like they must keep finding things wrong with it). That consumed two hours of my time yesterday and is still unresolved.
Actually it wasn’t our Christmas menu that was on the agenda as such. I am working on Christmas Day and Anne is having the day at home so we are not planning a big meal. Unless you count probably eating a whole box of chocolates each as a big meal. It was what to offer our friends John and Sue who we are having over for New Year’s Eve. I suggest Goose but Anne disagrees. I don’t need to go into the ins and outs of the matter but we agree that we will give them something from Gordon Ramsey and I will cook us a goose some other time over the holiday period.
Fedw Wood is, mostly a plantation of conifers planted in lines but there are a great many other species growing at its margins. Including beech, a pile of which (and its accompanying warning sign) has been sitting there for some time. No doubt it is intended to be beetle food or some other worthy cause but I see it as wasted firewood.
After about half a mile of going straight, the path rises and then splits with a route straight ahead going towards The Tout (great name, eh – the property has a fancy chicken house) and the right hand bend heading back to the road. We take the right.
A dog appears with a stick in its mouth. Dogs are extraordinary creatures in many ways. One of the ways that the domestic version has done so well with humans is that a) they are almost as simple as most humans in their basic needs and wants and b) they are somewhat better than most humans at getting those needs met. This dog clearly wanted to play. It dropped its stick in front of us and we had little choice but to pick it up and fling it away. The dog brought it back. I have never been a dog owner but I have observed this interaction between dogs and humans on countless occasions and I know that the only end to this is when the human has had enough. Thankfully we were not tested to our limits as after three exchanges the owners appeared near enough for the dog to return to the rightful throwers of sticks.
After about half a mile or so the path reaches the road. Before the road there is a narrow path that heads off right back to the car parking area but Anne doesn’t like the muddy bits and prefers to get to the road and return to the car by walking along it for a hundred yards or so. There is much of interest in this couple of hundred yards.
To begin with on the other side of the road is the moss covered stone wall of Chepstow Park Wood. The wood was a mediaeval deer park and we discuss the age of the wall we are looking at. This section of the road through the woods seems to be a favoured spot for people to fling rubbish out the windows. I only wish more people were gainfully employed picking it up again. On the right a warning sign on an electricity pylon warning you of its perils. Anne particularly likes this sign.
And then on the left is a road a sign warning you of deer.
If you do drive through the wood, take heed. For this is precisely where, some months previously, a deer jumped right in front of me as I returned home from work one night. It smashed straight into my wing. It was dark and it was a very dangerous spot to stop being on a sharp blind bend. I looked back and could not see the deer in the road but when I went back the next morning its dead body was in the ditch by the roadside.
Our final sign of the walk was to spot a “Save our Woods” one still stapled quite high up on the side of the tree.
This immediately brought to mind two people. Our Friend Karen , who is one of nature’s friends and is passionately protective of woods (and many, many other things). When the Government recently proposed to sell off much of the Forestry Commission land or transfer it to others ownership Karen was part of a forceful campaign through Twitter to alter their plans. Karen is one of the most delightful people I have ever met, so it is always nice to be reminded of her. Karen also designed the wonderful Veddw and thinkingardens websites for us.
The other was Derek Trimby. Derek lived on the other side of the woods at Itton and was himself a campaigner of great commitment for the local environment. When I was chairman of the local Branch of the Campaign For the Protection for Rural Wales Derek was forever on the phone ensuring that I took some issue up. He was a somewhat eccentric character and nearly always right about his concerns. He died last year.The Save our Woods campaign preceded the more recent threats, though, by many years. It was launched by local people when there was talk of locating a Centre-Parks type development in the middle of the wood. Derek was deeply involved in that campaign, which was won. The signs continued existence is a reminder of the amazing resilience of a piece of paper covered in plastic and of the perpetual threats from development of our countryside.