K and I enjoyed a pleasant woodland ride. There's a community wood near her home where riding is allowed by permit. The existence of this wood is not publicised so that the wood is not abused. But it is large enough that we spent two hours beneath its canopy.
We rode five hours, making a circuit through the wood, traversing a quaint village and climbing to the crest of a steep chalk ridge. But the woodland stretch was the most special simply because there are so few large woods in this country through which one can ride.
After a night of rain, the dark woodland floor was damp and fragrant. The best time to experience a wood is in summer immediately after a shower. That's when colours and smells are at their best. I first realised the fullness of that truth twenty years ago in a Moldavian wood, cantering an enthusiastic bay gelding on a July afternoon. It was wonderful. We travelled miles in the wake of a storm, heading eastwards towards the village of Valea Alba (White Valley), named after the multitude of bleached bones remaining from a tumultuous medieval battle between Romanians and Turks. The bones are still there too, interred in a church crypt. That detail I discovered a little later, adding poignancy to initial joy at the bountiful vibrancy of untrammelled nature.