I remember the cold. I remember the bracing wind blowing through my coat. But I remember the stiff duffel coat that I always wore. And I remember my mittens I always wore. And I remember holding the hand I clasped hold on to.
There is a photo of that moment. My nose is red. My eyes are bright. And my face is smiling. The weather is grey, overcast and gloomy. This is Britain in mid-winter. This is Britain when the sun doesn’t shine. This is Britain. But for me – I am six or seven years of age and there is nothing more that I love than walking in the cold as the wind tries to tear through my coat, and the leaves blow around my feet. For I have my duffel coat and my mittens. And a path that begs me to meander onwards…
That was the woodland of my childhood. A patch of pine woodland with wide forestry trails and log gates. Of fallen trunks; of Sunday afternoons; of daisy chains; horse chestnut trees and conkers; of moments when walks felt like the grandest adventures. But just in a small patch of woodland in Suffolk.
For each of us, we have that one moment. A clarity. An innocence when the outside, the fresh air, the bracing winds, the falling leaves meant excitement and adventure.
A moment that inspired us to do more, be more. To explore, to endure and to be brave.
And that was my moment.
There is a postscript to this…
There are some who say that you should never go back, never return to the far-distance places of your memories. Maybe they are right.
For after a lifetime away, I returned back across the country to that woodland of my childhood dreams, to find it gone. Lost to time, its place was now taken by a road network enlarged and extended…
I was saddened for that woodland, for those memories which are now only kept inside souls and hearts, together with the reminders of people now also lost to us - like those who once held my mittened hands.
But moreover, I hoped that something, somewhere had replaced that woodland. That there was a place for those children, still searching for their own first adventures – that were for me, the start of a lifetime of explorations.