Hainault Forest Country Park

The local pubs were doing ‘Royal Wedding’ themed dinners on Saturday. I was working and wasn’t sure what time I would finish and get home. So instead we opted to take Amma out for a Sunday Roast. Amma doesn’t remember having one the last time she was here. At the restaurant she asks for something spicy. “I am afraid English food is not renowned to be spicy, but you will like it”, I say.

We share a squid starter as we wait for the rest of the family to arrive. Two baby car seats mean two trips to get us all to our destination or two cars. I didn’t want to drive or walk the two miles today. It was another sunshine filled day. A perfect day to sit outside and watch the world go by. There was a little baby to think about and so we sat inside. The place was heaving as usual.

The pub is next door to Kavitha’s first school. After lunch, I take Amma and Lakshmi to see the school. It is gated and locked nowadays and access is restricted due to security fears. The bunting hung up to mark the royal occasion sways in the breeze.

Across the road is one of the many entrances to the Hainault forest country park. The forest is known as ancient woodlands as it came into existence after the ice age. We cross the car park leading to the pathway. It forks into different directions. We follow the path to the lake. It seems a bit deserted at first, but soon we come across people going for a gentle stroll and those walking their dogs. Stumps of tree trunks have been carved into various shapes along the way. There is one that looks like a bear and another which looks like a drowning girl calling out for help. Short wooden bridges hover the dried up streams snaking from the lake.

The lake appears in the distance. The surface shimmering in the bright light. People are having fun on paddle boats. Ducks and geese are gently waddling along. No one is in a rush. You need a fishing licence to catch any fish, but children are walking around with their little fishing nets. Dogs are not allowed in the water and yet a lady throws a stick into the water to coax her dog to have a swim. He does this a few times and comes out dripping. It is a nice way to cool down on a warm day like this. The temperature is in the low twenties and very pleasant. I move away before he shakes himself and drenches everyone around him. Lakshmi is all giggles as she runs around enjoying the adventure.

Amma tells me stories about her childhood. The times when she used to go to the Perumpuzha temple pond to take a bath with her elder brother and younger sister. Mamen would give them strict instructions to not wander off into the deep end. Kunjamma would listen and stay as she was told, but Amma was a bit of a tomboy and a rebel and would venture out when mamen was not looking. She said she almost drowned a couple of times but managed to get back somehow.

I remember once getting almost washed away by the currents in Varkala beach when I went there with my parents as a child. The water was only knee deep and I was holding on to my Dad’s hands, but still remember the panic when a big wave made me lose my footing and I could feel the strength of the raging waters trying to sweep me with it. Amma describes her ordeals in a calm manner. I still get the shivers when I think of mine.

As we walk back to the car park, we stop near one of the fishing decks to watch the ducks. I see fat tadpoles swirling around in the clear water and try to get Lakshmi’s attention. She doesn’t understand what I am trying to tell her. A little boy runs up to us with his container full of tadpoles and shows it to Lakshmi. He has been catching them with his net all afternoon. He then gently lowers the tadpoles back into the water and let them swim away.

Amma says that she also used to catch tiny fish from the temple pond. It is time to go back home. We have visitors coming. Lakshmi and her great grandmother had a good day in the woods today. One making childhood memories and the other remembering hers.

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