Brena loves hawthorn berries. They crunch as she chews them, and they must taste good too. Autumn rides are punctuated by occasional pauses where the berries are thickest and richest.
It comes as a surprise to experience a fragment of wilderness just seventy miles from London. But Fyfield Down is a relic from the distant past, a hint of what great swathes of land were like a couple of thousand years ago. A windswept open space where the traveller can turn left or right at will, walk or canter, or simply stop and gaze. In summer I might stop and picnic up here, Brena tied to a hawthorn.
I took a trail leading through a wood. It's a peculiar little wood, tangled and confusing, the sort of place that might have inspired Tolkien to invent the Mirkwood. For a little way I pushed through low-hanging foliage and dodged fallen trees, only for the trail to peter out into wet leafy forest floor. Suddenly there were no prints upon the damp earth. But I'd ridden that way several times previously, and found a way each time. Well, perhaps not quite the same way every time. Well, just like Tolkien's Old Forest, the trees must have moved. The quiet was pervasive, my words to Brena loud and yet muffled. Tricked by the wood, and forced to dismount by low boughs, we picked a way in roughly the right direction. It felt as if we could wander around all afternoon. But I've had to navigate greater, wilder forests. This little wood couldn't be so difficult. Or could it? We weren't traversing some simple spruce forest. But after several doublings-back we stumbled upon a fence. Following that a short way we found a gap where a fallen tree had pinned the wire into the fallen leaves. From there we found a lightly trodden trail, and that led back to the open. It really was a little bit of an adventure, and I was glad to be travelling with a mare who takes such events in her stride.