The mud is heavy, claggy. A steady squelch underfoot. The three of us exploring a little woodland that my wife knows well. We are a running late and the light is fading a little already. The small glades off the main path are carpeted with bright red and orange leaves (and an amazing array of fungus).
Autumn colours in full force.
Back on the path we pick our way through the mud until we find a better path. Violet skipping along until we get back to the car just before dusk.
I haven’t climbed a tree in years, probably not since I was about 14, but at this point there doesn’t seem to be much choice. The crowd is 10, maybe 15 deep on Constitution Hill. The police are stopping anyone getting closer to the finish to avoid overcrowding so I’m stood by the flamme rouge assessing my options. From the PA system I know the riders are leaving Richmond Park, they’ll be here in a little more than 10 minutes. There’s nothing for it, if I want to see anything I’ll need to climb the tree.
I ask the woman in the Italian cycling top if she can step out of the way so I push up off the lampost. I grab one of the low branches and then I’m scrambling up, pushing a grasping until I’m sat high up in one the trees that stands on the run in to the finish.
The PA announces that Wiggins is on the front trying to pull back the breakaway - a huge cheer goes up and the tree shakes a little, but my arms are wrapped around the trunk, and I have a perfect view onto the road waiting for the riders to swing round the bend and on to the finish.
As the riders fly round the corner, an almighty roar leaps up from the crowd - it’s not the British on the front as most of the spectators would want, but the atmosphere is electric. Even from my tree I can see the steely confidence in Vinokurov’s eyes, there’s no way he’s going to let Uran win this one.
From the top of Ivinghoe Beacon there’s a path that leads along the top of the ridge and into the woods on the Ashridge Estate. It’s a managed woodland, but part of the joy of walk though here is that it’s not overly managed. Clumps of fallen timber and rotting leaves sit under the broad leaf canopy, making it a haven for all kinds of plants, wildlife and hurtling children.
Out for a walk on new years day, through the community woodland behind the cottage and then down over the rolling fields to the next village for a pint and some soup. On the way back we stopped by this old trunk which had been brought down by some ivy, now slowly rotting away, providing a new habitat and compost for the hedgerow.