I had planned to go up to London with the girls to see the Remembrance Day poppies at the Tower of London this Monday gone. I was undone by what I can only assume was a bad reaction to my flu jab last week. Shivery and achey, the thought of tackling London crowds for the second time in a few days, this time with small children in tow, was too much.
Instead, when we woke to startling blue skies and bright beams of bright wintery sunlight, we packed up our coats and wellies and headed to a place I’ve been meaning to wander for a while – Watlington Hill. A wander through the woods here collecting brightly coloured leaves with Roo took us out onto the exposed hillside of Watlington Hill itself. We walked and ran along the spine of the hill here, exhilarated by the views which reached on as far as the eye could see and basking in the dancing sunshine.
We examined berries and Thistle-heads, Gorse and Old Man’s Beard, crept through the diminutive thorny bushes on the brow of the hill and peered down rabbit burrows until we emerged onto the far end of Watlington Hill, Oxfordshire sprawled out before us in an orderly table-cloth of greens, browns and blues, scattered with little houses. There, at peace with the world and bathed in all its natural beauty, we took a moment of stillness to reflect on just how joyful it is to be alive and how lucky we are to enjoy life as we do. I say we…after 30 seconds of staring out at the view, Roo was off to see if she could get any further down the rabbit hole with all the enthusiasm and belief in dreams of any 3 year old whilst her baby sister slept soundly, sheltered from the wind and worldly cares in the warmth of her carrier. It made me wonder how many generations of people have trodden the same ground here, how many have reflected on the beauty of the world and the simple pleasures of life in exactly the same spot? How many of those who gave up their lives for us during the ongoing conflicts this country has been caught up in over the years held a little bit of this lovely landscape close to their hearts when far from home?
With uncanny timing, as I readied myself to retrieve Roo from the rabbit hole and continue our walk, two chinooks raised me from my reverie, giving us our own personal fly by as they skimmed across the rooftops of Watlington below us. A reminder that whilst we dream and walk in tranquillity with our families, others are still caught up in a world far from peace.
As we continued our walk, everything seemed brighter and more acutely alive than normal. The red kites being pursued by shouting crows in the skies above, the mooing cows, the creaking squeals of the Yew trees as the wind rustled their protesting boughs, Roo’s bright coat and wellies streaking through the vibrant green of the fields, her enthusiasm for life bubbling through every limb and wild bobbing of the bobble on her woolly hat.
I’ve always believed in walking as a means of reflection, of taking stock of how very little we are in the grand scheme of nature, how small seemingly massive domestic problems really are and just how lucky we are to be alive to enjoy its magnificence. This week, as we remember the fallen and some of the World’s most troubled times, it seems more meaningful than ever.