This is my contribution to the New Days Walk Friday, 1st January, 2021, set up by Kel Portman as part of the Walking the Land project. Here's a link to their website:
For this walk we were invited to use prompt words from the Scottish artist and poet Thomas A Clark, whose work and life have been inspired by walking. His prose poem ‘In Praise of Walking’ evokes his love of walking in the landscape.
- A rock outcrop, a hedge, a fallen tree, anything that turns us out of our way, is an excellent thing on a walk.
- Wrong turnings, doubling back, pauses and digressions, all contribute to the dislocation of a persistent self-interest.
- Everything we meet is equally important or unimportant.
- The line of a walk is articulate in itself, a kind of statement.
- We can walk between two places, and in so doing establish a link between them, bring them into a warmth of contact, like introducing two friends.
- Pools, walls, solitary trees, are natural halting places
- That something exists outside ourselves and our preoccupations, so near, so readily available, is our greatest blessing.
I am in Norway in Skudeneshavn with my partner Steve Poole, staying with our son Tom and daughter-in-law Kirsten and finally meeting our new grandchildren, Severin and Tilly, who were born late July 2020, but because of Covid we have not been able to visit until now. So my walk from here, accompanied by my partner Steve, is through a large forest that stretches into the centre of the island of Karmoy.
I dedicate this walk to Tilly and Severin, who I hope will find their way into these woods when they are older and have adventures.
This will be a circular walk with a few digressions, pauses and wanderings; starting from Almannamyr Lake ( the location can be found on what3words : ///lengthen.explain.juggled) following paths through the pine forest to Litlavatn resovoir (///actor.offices.assess) returning to Almannamyr by a different route.
The ground feels crisp and hard under our feet as we crunch our way along the side of the lake, a low sun glistening on its iced-up surface, the pine forest with its hidden maze of paths lies to our right. Rock outcrops rise up holding shadows.
Either side of the track a mass of tangled pastel-coloured leaves and pale grass flattened in heavy frost, small twigs poke up topped with tiny mounds of white crystals.
Drops of melting water unfrozen by the pale warmth of the sun hang from branches.
A sign post points the way through the trees; we turn into the pine forest, the ground strewn with pine cones. The track winds over small part-frozen quietly trickling streams; thick roots snake amongst stone and rock and earth, shallow pools of water reflect the dense mass of branches and colour above us.
I put my nose against the bark and breath in the strong scent of pine. Sound is deadened, our footsteps muffled by layer upon layer of fallen pine needles; I wonder how deep? Even out of the woods we are in a quiet world. Sometimes there is another walker and we exchange brief greetings and smiles. There is no bird song, just the noise our feet as we stumble and brush through heather and grass, and the trickle of water which accompanies us most of the way even when we can’t see it. We mostly walk in silence, hushed by the landscape.
This is a walk of extremes of light and dark; we pass from the sudden almost blinding brilliance of a white frosted world, the sharp cold air hitting us, to the soft muted darkness of pine trees, with moss carpets of intense green and rich brown earth mixed with decaying pine needles.
I stop frequently to look and to photograph something that catches my eye, sometimes squatting on the ground to draw, using water collected from the pools and bits of frozen ice to move the ink and paint around.
We develop a way of shuffling, slithering and sliding as we balance on wooden walkways between pools, strips of netting on the planks catching the ice. Squelch and splotch through not-yet frozen mud; skirting dark glassy frozen puddles, chancing across the thick grass and heather, not sure if there’s solid ground underneath, but it’s preferable to treading on the lethal icy surfaces and slippery rocks. Occasionally we skid precariously, catching ourselves with a backwards jolt just before falling. Pause to peer into pools at leaves and twigs suspended in their fall into the iced-up depths.
Clambering up through narrow rocky paths there are views across to distant snow-covered mountains and the sea. The sky is already turning pink. Scrambling back down into dark silent woods, stretching to grab handy branches as we walk uphill and to catch as we half run and slither down the other side. Fifty years ago there were no forests here, and we try to imagine a landscape of just rock and water and sky. Old rough dry-stone walls with brown and orange lichen tumble into the undergrowth. High rock faces tower above us on one side, densely packed trees on the other, light glimpsed through the mass of entangled branches
We step across water falling into gullies, pull ourselves up on rocks pitted and scored by the weather, to emerge in a wide open space surrounded by forest. We’ve arrived at Litlavatn reservoir, a place to stop for a while and gaze across the frozen blue surface criss-crossed with lines as though someone has been skating, although it’s not yet solid enough for that.
From higher rocks on the other side a thin line of smoke rises; I can just make out a red glow and small figures - a family bar-b-que is in progress - a fine place to spend the evening.
Sky, trees, rocks, flashes of blue, green, pink-orange reflect on the ice. I attempt a few quick drawings. Then we turn back into the forest to find another path back to Almannamyr.
Red markers painted on tree-trunks and rock lead us; so many trails, some sign-posted, others disappearing into the forest or between rocks. Sometimes we wander off the path, something catching the eye. Where are you now? Over here, I’m just going to make a drawing… won’t be long. We could spend a life-time walking in this place.
Climbing over, ducking under fallen branches, squeezing between tree trunks avoiding the deeper muddy puddles, we walk in twilight; there’s a gap between woods, another pool, another wooden walkway. Stubby trees stand partly submerged in dark water, bare black trunks and broken branches resemble a war zone, fallen trees heaped up either side of the path. Then back into a silent shadow world.
Walking in growing darkness we can just make out the path; the orange glow of the sun setting glimmering between the trees, light fading quickly, we become shadow figures - my favourite time - seeing and not seeing.