I was the one who introduced Indira to the Sunday walking group. She now goes with them regularly and I have only done that one walk and that too over a year ago. Lakshmi is away and I am free. I check the weather forecast. The forecast was for a wet Sunday when I checked it a couple of days ago, but now it looks like it might not rain.
I ring Indira to find out if there is a walk. There is a three mile walk in Epping Forest from Chingford station. I ask her how she is going to get there. She is taking her car. “Can I join you?” “What is wrong with your car?” she asks me. Yes, my friends come in all shapes and forms. “We are going in the same direction and I really don’t know Chingford at all”, I reply.
She arrives promptly at ten and picks me up. We haven’t seen each other since the summer. There is a lot to catch up. At the station we join the rest of the group. I don’t recall meeting any of them during my last walk. Indira introduces me to the leader.
I haven’t done any walking in the cold weather for a while and wondered this morning whether I should take my coat or just layer up. I decided to layer up, which now seems a mistake. Despite the four layers I have on, including my thermals, I am still feeling cold. I wrap my scarf tightly around my neck and chin. The sky looks clear and it is unlikely to rain but the wind is decidedly chilly.
A short walk to the entrance of the forest and we are at the Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge. Built in 1543 for the Queen’s father, Henry VIII, it is now a museum. It is closed today, but legend has it that the Queen used to ride her horse up the stairs in the lodge. It is a three storey building and the view of the forest from the top floor is said to be quite spectacular.
There are quite a few walks you can do in this part of the forest. We are following the Willow trail today. Dog walkers, bike riders, joggers, horse riders and parents with their children are already making their way around the forest. We keep to the paths and follow the trail, trying to avoid the puddles and horse manure. John points out important landmarks when we get to them. Brooks, bridges, old roads, rare plants are not missed.
We stop at a four hundred year old oak tree for a breather. Most of the group have brought snacks and hot drinks. I am not hungry but am offered a mince pie. Christmas is around the corner and there are not many walks before that and it seems they are already in the Yuletide spirit.
The walk covers the usual forest sights, a lake, walking trails and paths. The trees have mostly shed their leaves, although some are still hanging on to the last few. A reminder that winter is not far off. The paths are carpeted in fallen golden brown leaves and the bare tree trunks stand tall and forlorn waiting for the spring to bring new growth. Till then it is time for the forest to take a long well earned rested break. It has just weathered one of the hottest summers and before that one of the coldest winters that records have seen.
We reach the end of our walk by lunchtime. It is time to say our goodbyes to the group and Indira drops me back at home.