Buckinghamshire

“Do you want to use the gym and pool facilities?”, the receptionist asks. “You will have to book in advance”, she adds. The Ducklington Lake and Country park is just around the corner from the hotel. Nature provides the perfect gym. You won’t get a better workout. We go for a walk after a late lunch. A two minutes walk from the hotel and we reach the entrance to the nature reserve. The temperature is already at its peak and the shades given by the trees provide a welcome relief. With the lake on one side and the overflowing stream on the other, the clear path leads us around the lake. White butterflies flutter and wild flowers add colour to the lush greenery. Half way around the path we notice it is cordoned off with the police guarding the road. They don’t tell us what the problem is. On the way back we bump into a couple of young Indian women. They want to know where they can have a swim in the lake. Apart from a few dog walkers the area looks abandoned. I tell them that I wouldn’t swim in the murky waters and try to dissuade them. Next day I find out that a seventeen year old girl drowned in the lake and couldn’t be resuscitated. The drama was unfolding as we were checking into the hotel and that was the reason the path was cordoned off. Every year when the weather gets hot we hear stories like this. This time it was a little bit too close for comfort. My heart skipped a beat when I listened to the news this morning wondering if it was one of the the girls I was speaking to. Wild swimming is encouraged but one needs to remember the perils before taking the plunge. 

It is another scorching day. The first stop is the remains of a 15th century Manor House on the banks of the River Windrush. Minster Lovell Hall was built in 1430 and demolished in the 18th century. The tomb of the Baron who built it is preserved in the adjacent St Kenelm’s church. In the nearby river people are cooling off and seem to be having a good time. The water is shallow but quite cloudy. It doesn’t entice me at all. There isn’t much parking spaces nearby and we had to park further ahead and walk down to reach the ruins. On the walk to the Church and ruins we pass thatched houses with immaculate gardens. Climbing roses arch over the doorways and windows. Multicoloured Hollyhock and other flowers line the walls. We stop to talk to a couple of house owners. It is difficult not to admire the picturesque village. They tell us that the houses are described as Chocolate box houses. A village where time stood still. The afternoon drive takes us past more historic market villages. 

Today has been dubbed as freedom day, the day when lockdown ended, much to the chagrin of the scientists advising the government. Although they agree that the lockdown should end they have been advising caution especially as the case numbers have been climbing steadily and so has the number of hospital admissions. I read that herd immunity is a myth. We go for a walk around the lake again. The paths are open now. Flowers have been placed at the point where the young girl lost her life. As I walk past, more of her friends come bearing flowers to pay their respects. The serene atmosphere surrounding the park has taken on a more sombre tone. The message left by the friend who tried to rescue her, explained their anguish in one short sentence. “I’m sorry I couldn’t find you”. An avoidable tragedy. The water is too dark to see anything that disappears below the surface. If only she hadn’t gone in. Is freedom day another avoidable tragedy on a much grander scale, I wonder. Only time will tell. 

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