It's very very cold today in Epping Forest. I know, cos I was there. So was Stonecot. She's currently mid-curry. With beer.
We meet up at Epping station, stomp up the road, get to Bell Common which precedes the forest proper. Brightish but greyish day. My new boots mean I don't have to avoid the muddy bits which is good because it's all one muddy bit though much of it is frozen, including the pond.
Get to the forest, trudge along. One thing about having company for your walk, the time really flies. The 'shrooms have mostly gone, we find a black frosted remnant on a log that was covered a couple of weeks ago, and a few bracket fungus on another log, but the cold has got to most of them.
It's now a winter landscape.
Ice everywhere, no leaves on the trees, little undergrowth. Holly bushes everywhere, though few berries. We see some great tits and robins and loads of magpies, not much else. Interestingly, we both of us like the winter forest, there's a feeling of stillness you don't get when there are leaves rustling, and also you can see a long way through the trees because the greenery has died back. Getting lost in this would be far less scary.
Frankly I'm not keen to test it out, because it is cold. Bone-welding, knee-empurpling cold. We are walking pretty briskly, because standing around you'd get very cold very quickly.
We have a look at Ambresbury Fort and I realise how close the road is on the other side of it. You can now see cars passing along in the distance, and hear them. We have a debate about which Age 2,500 years ago is and I say Stone Age and then realise that's hopelessly out, and Stonecot says Bronze Age and in fact it's Iron Age and when you look on the net in fact the 'age' thing isn't very accurate because it happened in different places at different times.
Anyway, we finish our visit and walk on and squelch through the boggy bit just beyond it.
Which is very boggy. I am glad of my boots.
At Furze Ground my favourite bit, we stop and admire the view and take pictures.
As we walk, we start to see more and more horses, all sort of Christmasified. There are orange markers on the trees telling the riders which way to go.
and organised by the Essex Bridleways Association www.essexbridleways.co.u
Stonecot points out to me that some of the horses have deer antlers, which gives me a moment's pause but it turns out they are only little red felt ones. There's also tinsel round bridles etc. At one point a rider loses a gold foil crown topped with tinsel and I pick it up and give it to the next rider who promises to return it. Well in fact I wanted to hang on to it, I've always fancied myself in a crown but the rider wanted it back.
I get us safely to the log for lunch and we have lunch sitting on it although it's damp because everywhere else is sodden. I eat three courses (vegetable soup, egg sarnies, banana) and Stonecot eats about a quarter of the calories I do because she's booked an Indian for dinner tonight.
We're now on the last leg and leave the path so I can show Stonecot the other Iron Age camp, Loughton Fort. This is set back a couple of hundred meters from the path, and Stonecot agrees with me that once the path is out of sight if you turned round twice, you wouldn't know which way you'd come. It does all look the same. As I've been in this bit before, I know how to find the way out: you look for cycle ruts for the path, and the backs of the wooden marker posts, and there's a sawn off tree, then the treetrunk where I have breakfast or tea, depending on which way I'm coming.
Even since last time I was here, there are a lot more pools of standing water.
Loughton Brook has more water in it than I've ever seen (although no dogs this week).
By now, the sun is getting quite low although it's only about 1pm and I badly need a pee, so we're pleased to get back to Loughton where there's a loo. Or at least I am. My mother used to call me dry-cleaned, but five hours is about my limit these days.
The title is a reference to one of my mother's favourite sayings. You can read it on Wiki.