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Get your boots on

For Curry Rivel and District Footpath Group - an appreciation

It all started off in the City of Wells
When I turned up too late with a story to tell;
Although my goodwill meant I passed up the walk
Contact was made with a joke and some talk.
The next week it moved to a Half of a Moon
And a muddy track up with stones well bestrewn
Within a small group, and yet there on my own,
A step too far, too soon? Too prone?

But along with the welcomes the questions then came -
Where did I come from? My job and my name?
And quickly developed, our interests we found
We made conversation on common ground.
Acquaintances grew with each passing week,
With knowledge we'd gained - and a fair bit of cheek.
So Saturday mornings with friends I now roam
To places anew but not far from home

I've learned all the gradings - A,C and D,
Wondering often the lack of a B
And I now know for certain that hills there will be
When honest Mike G says "I've called it an E!"
And I know of the question at nearly half ten -
"Is Steve not now coming, or just late again?"
While I'm stuck in a lane behind tractor and trailer
Or horsebox or cyclist or bus or Haybaler
There's always a cause, a reason or two
But like someone said "Not all of it's true......"

Now we've seen lovely places
Had the sun on our faces,
Been here and there
With the wind in our hair,
And we've walked in the rain,
And we've waited for trains
Climbed stiles old and wonky
Made friends with some donkeys,
We've slogged through some bogs
Climbed tree-trunks and logs,
We've scrambled through brambles
And once gained a dog;

We've walked fields and lanes and plenty of tracks
Taken wrong turns and had to turn back
We've found our route blocked and taken diversions
Almost becoming an all-day excursion
But of all the numerous ways we have crossed
There's just the one time that we've got kind of lost -
A village hall notice board, a long, pensive peer
"We're now in Galhampton. We shouldn't be here"

We've learned around cattle we need to be wary,
The number of swans that mate on the Cary,
We've walked around bends and through many a gate
To see what a view or a vista awaits;
We've Vanessa's keen eye for a rare butterfly,
Gleaned from both screen and literature,
Nina has sweets and Elaine other treats
And there's John P - our own Livestock Whisperer

We've boots that we spatter with mud as we natter
And cowpats we step on and ruefully splatter
We pitter and patter, chitter and chatter
We yitter and yatter of all things that matter
The serious, mysterious, the bloomers, the humours,
The gossip, the hearsay, the scandal, the rumours
The latest reporting on church renovations
And stories that promise of reopened stations.

And things that annoy us incurring our wrath
Smiles upon miles, the laughs along paths
With unwinding yarns of done-up old barns,
Grand-kids at Uni, and the selling of farms,
The pubs that are closing, Leave or Remain?
Groans that the Spice Girls are touring again,
How to make batter - stir it or mix it?
Saving the nation, surveys on biscuits.

Socks that are sodden in boots greatly trodden
Through quagmires from horse-riders riding,
Struggling for purchase your whole body lurches
With legs ever widening while slipping and sliding,
And the resonant sound of our boots on the ground
Or the patterns and tones of our chat
Whatever abounds, it may well be found
There could be a t-shirt for that!

Then came the day in the West Hatch vicinity
The day on which I lost my Leaders' virginity
With overnight rain like the Biblical flood
A brave Bakers' Dozen set out through the mud -
In under two hours we're filthy and dirty
As the count of the stiles climbed quite close to thirty:
A walk well intended with detail minute
But miscalculations meant I had to re-route
With weather against us it wasn't a charmer
And we gladly returned to the Arms of a Farmer

At the end of each walk it's back to the pub
Time for a drink, and some well deserved grub
With walking then done and blisters not come
And somebody's tum heard to rumble:
With boots thrown in cars
And the queue in the bar
A cheesy baguette, some meals to forget -
The unending searching for crumble

Chicken dishes with bones come from fishes,
Slices of ham tasting funny
A ridiculous price for something just "Nice"
And finding good value for money:
Food that's quite good on pieces of wood
Sent back and re-served on a plate -
Some mediocre and some a real choker,
And some of it worth the long wait.

But our spirits don't droop over bright orange soup,
We stay full of cheer and we find some good beers
As we chomp, slurp and crunch through a sociable lunch,
And I'm grateful a hunch makes me one of the bunch.
So Saturday's now I consider a treasure
A new kind of pleasure beyond any measure,
I couldn't have wanted for much better folk
And the warmth of feeling each one evokes

On late Sunday evenings as I clean off my boots
I think of the the joy which I'm given en route,
And when I sit silent and think for a while
Of every climbed stile and each country mile,
Of each of the buzzards I've watched as they swoop,
Of each fallen tree under which I may stoop,
Of each Grade E hill that Mike makes us troop
I'm proud I'm a member of this walking group

Steve Beer 23.02.19