The closer we get to November, the colder and darker the mornings are becoming. I’m not sure why that surprises me – after all, it happens every year. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been enjoying the unexpected late October sunshine so much that a part of me simply hoped it would continue on right the way through until Spring. Wishful thinking of course, because the cycle of shedding and hibernating needs to happen to allow the necessity of new growth, but oh gosh I wish it would stay warm and sunny for a little while longer.
As I write this it’s a damp and gloomy Tuesday morning, but my heart is remembering a sunny Sunday a couple of weeks ago. The husband had to work, so it was just the girls and I for the day. We had no real plans, so I suggested going up to the Stepping Stones on Cannock Chase to make the most of the sunshine. Normally this would be met with grumbles (and I have to admit that I did brace myself for a battle) but, surprisingly, they were keen to go. Even more so when I said we’d explore off the trail a bit because I wanted to scout out some locations for some photoshoots I was thinking of offering.
It was the perfect Autumn day – clear blue skies, warm sunshine, a light breeze making the leaves flutter down and dance like rain and the colours on the trees just starting to turn. Just right for a walk in the forest.
We set off and, as promised, we wandered off the trail a couple of times to see what else the forest had to offer us. On one particular side-track we sloped uphill towards majestic trees standing tall and straight as soldiers, rounded a corner and came across a pool right on the peak of the hill, surrounded by an almost perfect circle of trees. Suspended over the pool was a rope swing, still and inviting. Sadly, we couldn’t reach it, but as we explored further, each of us going in a different direction, I heard shouts from Ella and Mimi, who had each found another rope swing. We tested them by pulling as hard as we could and the branches they were attached to didn’t budge, so Ella navigated her way on to one, I gave her a push and she soared, way out over the crest of the hill. “Mummy, I feel like I’m flying!”. We stayed there a while, playing and exploring and discovering, before rejoining the main trail and continuing onwards.
A little further on there was another surprise in store for us – enormous piles of logs piled up in pyramids by the side of the track. Neatly stacked, their cut ends on display, we marvelled at the patterns the sap had made on them and counted the rings to try and work out how old they were. We were a little disappointed upon seeing the stern “No climbing!” warning signs, but I thought it best to obey that particular rule, and so we moved on.
We weren’t the only people who had decided to come up to the Chase that morning – dog walkers, mountain bikers, couples and other families were out in force, but it never feels crowded up there. Nearly everyone we met smiled and said a friendly “Hello!” and it felt good to be sharing positivity and kindness instead of the negativity and loneliness and anger that seems to be plaguing the world of late.
As we continued onwards we collected ‘treasures’ – multi-coloured leaves, pinecones and smooth white stones “that look like dragon’s teeth Mummy!”. Each of the girls also acquired a large stick (because no walk in the woods is complete without one), which morphed from a humble piece of wood into swords for jousting knights, artist’s tools for drawing pictures in the ground and spears for fishing in puddles.
Upon reaching our destination – the Stepping Stones themselves – we spent a short while there going back and forth across them, dodging the playful dogs joyfully splashing through the water, navigating other children coming in the opposite direction and shrieking as the spray from mountain bikers cycling through the water threated to drench us.
Before long little tummies were rumbling and I realised that we’d been there for an hour and a half. So, somewhat reluctantly on my part, we turned around and headed back the way we came. It always feels quicker on the return journey. Perhaps because we’re not stopping every two minutes to examine something new. Perhaps because we’re keen to get home for lunch. Whatever the reason, we were soon bundled up in the car, blowing on hands and feet to warm them through and talking about our favourite parts of the walk.
There is no point to this post other than documenting it for myself. And my girls in future years I guess. I loved the entire morning – spending real, quality time with them, being out in nature at such a beautiful time of the year, the little conversations I had with each of them, the small hands in mine as we walked together, adventuring and exploring and discovering. It’s something I want to remember forever because I felt so really and truly happy.
Here are some photos from our walk. I hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoyed taking them.