Last Tuesday I declared to N that I was feeling restless, missing the big long walks I used to be able to do before the arrival of grinding arthritis in my feet. I felt that the steroid injection had done its job so well, that it was possible to tackle my first one in 4 years. And where I wanted to go was a bit of a trip down memory lane.
You see, I used to live at the foot of this hill. In my dog days, I would walk with him to the very top on a regular basis. We saunter up past the standing stones, up along the crumply fields with their intriguing hummocks and folds, along through the copse full of twisted trees that soared over our heads, and out into the wide open space.
It has air. Big skies. A curiously shaped stone. A tiny whimsical tower. It has the curves and falls of its Iron Age fort. It has my heart. In a way I cannot define, I belong to this place and I’d dreamed these last 4 years of being back up there.
The old dog is gone now but I still packed an extra sandwich, an extra bottle of water, like I used to do. And we walked and walked, slowly. Not saying much, focusing on each step. Drawing the thick summer air into our lungs. Feeling muscles sit up and say “I remember this”.
At the top, we sat and drank it all in. Had the place entirely to ourselves - crowds get drawn to the Cotswolds, the Malverns. This is ours. I let myself feel the sheer joy of being back up here after so long, after thinking I’d never get to see it again. There were a few discreet tears of sheer bloody joy. Relief. Thankfulness.
Buzzards wheel and scream freely up here. The wind tugs at your hair. Memories wave from the corner of my eye. Turn my head too quickly and they shyly hide again. The clouds tumble over themselves in the sky, chasing their own shadows on the ground.
We walk the perimeter and I can feel the ghosts of the tribes that called this place home jostle beside me. They chatter and laugh, argue and fuss. They cook and craft, look after the beasts they’ve brought in with them for protection. Until one bloody day when their fortress falls. Skeletons have been found in the ditches. Broken weapons. This place holds them and me.
And then we leave. I look back as much as I look forward. Tired and dusty back at the car. T shirts sticking to our backs, water bottles empty. Feet firmly back on the ground.