Today it's Epping Forest again. Train to Loughton and of course ten minutes out I realise I have put my squeaky clean new trainers on, not my muddy waterproof goretext trainers. Heave a sigh. I will just have to stay out of puddles.
Get to Loughton, buy breakfast and lunch in Sainsbury's. One croissant, one cereal bar, one coronation chicken sandwich. Ah yes. I brought a flask of tea and a banana with me. Head off to the forest.
Walk up the road and notice some enormous toadstools by the side of the road.
Picking them isn't allowed in the forest, and I wouldn't dare anyway. Most of the toadstools in the UK are harmless, except for half a dozen kinds that you certainly wouldn't want to invite to dinner. I'll stick to ordinary mushrooms. Last time I was in the forest I photographed some inkcaps, and since I don't know anything about toadstools I hunted around on the net to see what they were. At one point I thought I'd been photographing something really deadly, destroying angels! Quite interesting though, 'shrooms.
So I head off up the path. It's not too muddy. Autumn is well on its way and I would guess that next time I'm along here there won't be any leaves left on the trees. At the moment though, the sky is blue and the leaves are green and gold and orange. Lovely!
There's a fair bit of standing water about, which wasn't there a couple of weeks ago. After a while I get to the fallen treetrunk where I always sit and have a drink and sit down for breakfast.
This is the view I'm looking at. I don't know what you looked at while you had breakfast today, but if you had a better view than I did, please put it on your blog ; )
Finish croissant and a spaniel appears from nowhere, vacuums up the crumbs I had dropped and makes advances on my bag. I insert a foot between him and the bag (which has got my lunch in) and say 'no!' firmly. He gets called off and leaves reluctantly.
Sit and sip tea. A minute later, a chocolate labrador bounces along the path and comes to sniff the patch the spaniel just left. He then tries to get at my bag. I use the same technique, leg against his chest, to stop him devouring my coronation chicken sarnies. I know I'm not supposed to have them (411 calories) but honestly! Two dogs in five minutes? You'd get fewer dogs if you had your lunch at Piccadilly Circus!
Stand up feeling slightly addled. The first dog and owner disappeared down a track leading off from where I am sitting. When I next look at my map I realise that this track must go to Loughton Fort, the other earthwork in the forest, which I was intending to look for. Oh well, at least I've identified the way to it. There's always next week.
Stomp along the path, and where it curves on the map, there is a pond marked, 'Blackwater pool'. I actually leave the path (carefully and walk into the forest 50 metres or so, but I can't see it. I'll save that for another day, when I'm feeling a bit more intrepid or have other people with me.
Keep going on. I mentioned the other day in a blog how staggered I was that all this walking had drastically increased my fitness levels, but actually today I'm trying to walk a bit faster than usual and I realise that in fact this track has a fair few ups and downs. It's certainly not a flat easy walk, and there are plenty of muddy bits to avoid.
What I want, however, is to be like the woman who passed me jogging slowly, followed by a black poodle.
Come to the first road and cross it and for the first time pick up the correct track the other side. Actually, if I hadn't worked out which way it was, it's clear now. The leaves underfoot have been churned up along the correct way, making it perfectly clear. Ho hum!
Feeling pleased with myself and come across a couple with two small children and a King Charles spaniel. I like these: if I ever managed to overcome my horror of poop scooping (there is not the smallest chance of this), this is the breed I would buy. That's lucky on the whole, because this one bounces up to me and puts his very muddy paws on my leg. Oh well, it's clearly a canine sort of day.
Keep going, cross next road and hit a very muddy patch which takes a bit of negotiating. Once I have got walking boots, and got a bit fitter, I'm promising myself I am going to go off piste a bit and try some of the tracks I see. While I don't like being lost one bit, I do get the feeling that the most interesting bits of the forest are not the ones you see from this path which has loads of people on it. I've never for example seen a deer or a deer track but I'm certain there will be deer about. Today I see one squirrel, a bluetit, a robin and a magpie. Nothing else at all.
Have a quick look at Ambresbury Fort, which is still there, now with lots of leaves on it.
I'm now on the final leg of the walk and feeling a bit tired. I'd like to stop and eat but there's absolutely nothing to sit on. Up ahead I see three people acting oddly but when I get closer it turns out that one of them is photographing 'shrooms growing on a log, a whole forest of them. The people are clearly going to be some time, so I leave them to it but make a mental note to myself to have a look next week. I was expecting to see more 'shrooms, I do come across these ones, complete with bunny leavings.
And this one, growing on a dead tree
Arrive at the end of the trail feeling definitely peckish. Cross on to Bell Common, the bit that is by the side of the road into Epping. This turns out to be the muddiest bit of the lot. Right at the end, having successfully negotiated loads of squelchy patches I put my foot in a wet bit and get a soggy foot.
Argh. Oh well, only a half mile to go now.
Pass the pond.
And believe it or not, I get to the station without getting lost.
Fling myself into the train and bolt two sandwiches and a banana. Drink cup of tea as hot as I can bear it. Never has tea tasted so good.
Looking forward to next week's walk already.