Took one of usual meandering treks yesterday, the kind where we walk for miles talking and exploring and then get ready to turn back and realize we’ve accidentally gone much farther than we’d expected and are faced with a long, long journey home again. Sutton Park, at 2,400 acres, is the largest urban park in Europe and has been in use since prehistory. There’s a gated entrance just a few blocks from my mother-in-law’s house, and so it makes for an irresistible daily attraction.
We set out for Longmoor Pool on a windy, cool, cloudy afternoon and walked among the oak and birch, stopping often to listen to the songs of robin and blackbird. We strolled through the heathland, past huge stands of gorse which had just come into bloom with vibrant, coconut-smelling yellow blossoms. Rabbits darted at our approach, a few water voles leaped into the safety of thick grasses, but the family squabble between crows, jackdaws, and magpies continued undisturbed. Small copses of trees dotted the largely open meadow with its criss-crossing paths, and marshy creeks wound under footpath bridges. In the shade of boughs, we heard a lone cuckoo off in the distance counterpointing the songbird chorus. Along the boggy wetlands, we dodged the roaming herd of cattle that make the park their home and visited with a shaggy Bernese Mountain Dog who lapped at the mud puddles along the main path.
We reached the pool very late in the afternoon, sat for a while gazing at swans and gulls, and then slowly turned for home. The journey back became a lost and wandering adventure mainly in trying and failing to find the Roman Road that still passes through a portion of the park. Instead, we squiggled our way, checking the map at every crossroads, stumbling from path to path, until we found ourselves back at the gate, achey, sweaty and tired, but happy.
That evening, we celebrated my mother-in-law’s 77th birthday and 7th wedding anniversary with a posh dinner at New Hall, a medieval, moated manor home that dates back to the 13th century. We were granted a brief tour of the manor, through its creaky wood floors and tapestry-laden walls, peered out of 800-year-old stained glass and read the inscriptions that George Sacheverall had scratched in their surface in 1689. Poor George was imprisoned in the great hall by his father in punishment for an ongoing love affair with a maid. Kids back then…
We enjoyed our multi-course meal, then retired to a sitting room for late coffee, tea, and well-fed conversation before the short car ride back home.