A stroll in the woods

There is a walk that I have been wanting to do for a while. What has prevented me has been Gabby my rescue dog. The walk is about five miles and with her arthritis and stiffness, it is at the upper limit of her range. There is also the small matter of her reactivity and as the walk involves quite a long stretch through the Serpentine park and then the town centre, I have resisted it.

Recently though I have been taking Gabby into the centre of town, with Lilly, on Saturday mornings. The aim is to desensitise her from some of the things that she fears.

Though she still reacts, she has got a little better, so I thought that Christmas day might be a good time to try the longer walk.

The walk starts from Lightwood road, so there is no need to take the car.

After packing up a picnic and making sure that there was a flask of water for the dogs and a hip flask for me (only red wine) we set off.

It was a grey, dull day with a hint of mist or fog in the offing. The branches of the trees were dripping wet and I noticed that the bird seed on the bird table was soggy.

It’s a straightforward walk up Lightwood road. There were few people about and the church bells were calling the faithful and as it was Christmas, the not so faithful to the morning service.

Lilly giddy at the prospect of the walk and at the thought of the games she was going to have with the Frisbee that she had seen me storing in the rucksack was pulling a little but Gabby happy to be part of an adventure plodded along beside me, occasionally stopping to sniff a particularly interesting patch of grass or piece of pavement.

We reached the track up to the old Lightwood reservoir site and Lilly was released. With the Frisbee held firmly but gently in her mouth she ran ahead, having to be called back every so often.

We walked down into the little valley where the old reservoir was, now wilding nicely. Both dogs drank from the stream and we stopped for a few minutes so that Lilly could catch the Frisbee.

I had planned to stop and sit on the old reservoir wall and have something to eat but as we soon as we stopped a dog appeared and began to rush towards Gabby. This unsettled her and for a few moments, she was struggling to get free. The little dog’s owner retrieved her and after a brief exchange of pleasantries, we went on our ways.

I had spotted as Kestrel that was sitting in one of the rowan trees in the valley. I watched him for a few minutes. He was staring at the floor intently and with a sudden but silent movement he glided down to catch something on the ground below, before flying back up to enjoy his catch. However a magpie sensing the chance of a free meal began to harass and mock him, so he abandoned the tree and flying low and gracefully through the valley before turning to fly briefly up the hill to alight on one of the stone walls, to eat in peace.

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A couple of Ravens that had been noisily making their presence known towards the more open Combe Moss, flew across the valley.

The next part of the walk involved heading along Corbar road before diving into Corbar Woods. Again it was very quiet, although we were passed by a runner who called out Merry Christmas as she ran by. The Gabster strained and growled but this was more from the surprise than anything else.

Corbar is a wonderful wood. The storms over the years have created small open spaces and the fallen trees left in situ blends gently into the treescape as they rot and decay providing the nourishment and base for the next generation of trees and plants.

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Deciding that we needed to get a move on we took the lower route through Corbar, but you can just as easily walk up towards Corbar Cross if you want to extend the walk. Perhaps another time but I was conscious of Gabby and her back legs.

Heading out of Corbar you briefly walk along Manchester road before taking the track that leads down past and through the Cavendish Golf Club. There are good views towards the Goyt.

The golf course was deserted, which was good. When we have been here before Lilly gets excited by the golf balls and wants to chase them as well as barking at the golfers as they focus on teeing off from the tees.

You quickly reach Gadley Woods, and though you can carry straight on and miss out the woods, we turned right and followed the new and excellent path that takes you through Gadley.

Last time I was here it was at the height of the dry spell and the pond that lies off the path and almost hidden by the trees had dried up. But now after all the rain of the last three months, it was full again.

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It reminds me of the pond hidden deep in the overgrown woods of Lower Binfield house in the novel ‘Coming up for Air’ by George Orwell. There was no sign of George Bowling with his fishing rod though, in fact, there was no sign of anyone.  Just Gabby, Lilly and I.

After leaving Gadley, we crossed the road and walked down into the Serpentine. It was a little busier here and we had to take a slightly circuitous route to avoid one or two larger dogs, but on the whole, the Gabster stayed calm.

Then back through town and home.

Both dogs were well behaved and apart from not finding a place to have the picnic, the walk was very enjoyable.

The challenge will be to do it on an ordinary day when perhaps it will be a little busier.

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