Families North West London
It was the kind of gorgeous, sunny winter morning that would be photographed, superimposed with a corny platitude in a cool typeface and posted on Instagram. As we ate our hipster brunch of seeded toast, topped with spinach, parmesan, fried egg and chilli oil, in our sundrenched living room, my body tingled with let’s-do-somethingness and a cloud of fomo loomed large over my brow daring me to waste this gift of a day.
“How about a long walk,” suggested Midi-Me. I stared at her suspiciously and continued to chew my spinach. Not usually so enthusiastic about long-distance activity, Midi-Me had just signed up to the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award at school. It’s basically about trekking and plotting a course and eating cold beans and camping overnight in the back of beyond. I am guilty of neither lessoning nor encouraging her in this area of… I don’t even know what it’s called… outwardboundedness?? I feel this remissness on my part, I feel it deeply. Therefore I felt pressured to yield to her desire; my interpretation involved a pub linner (that’s an early dinner) and going somewhere not Bushey (where we live). “Let’s go to the Cotswolds! They’re far-ish but near-ish aren’t they?” No sooner than Midi-Me had agreed to this, I remembered we couldn’t leave the house till 1 as someone was coming over in the morning.
“I think it will take too long to get to the Cotswolds. How about the Chiltern Hills? They’re a bit nearer, I think.” I consulted the google, looking at all manner of council and walking websites on the way that detailed walks with difficulty, the time they would take, and the area covered in each walk. The walks were long. And distant.
“Erm, I think it’s going to take too long to get to the Chilterns and we need to be back by nightfall. I need to be a responsible mother.”
And this continued. I looked at Lea Valley, which turned out to be further away than the Chilterns and then at Colne Valley. The area of our theoretical walk appeared to be diminishing concentrically, towards our house at its centre.
“I think we’re going to end up doing 3 laps of the garden, mum,” sighed Midi-Me.
We parked at Harrow View Point on Old Redding which is on top of a hill not far from our house and provides views across London. I would drive Midi-Me here to look at other people’s fireworks when she was little. It’s a place where snogging couples hang out. I’ve just looked it up on the google and someone has put in their review “It's like a movie scene right out of California.” Well no, not quite, but it’s no bad place to park your car before you commence an adventure.
On my little phone I had bookmarked the two really terrible maps I had found online of the 7km Bentley Wood Circular Walk, which would, in 2 and a half hours take us into the woods (da-da da-da, that we have daily over fourteen years driven straight past) from Grims Dyke down past Stanmore Hill and back past Bentley Wood High. We role played. Midi-Me was James Bond and I was James Bond’s sidekick who he finds out is his mother after she dies. I died pretty early on and then became myself as I couldn’t be bothered to role play. We chatted. We marvelled at nature. We sang Proclaimers songs. Midi Me got us to Stanmore Cricket Ground and then I panicked as the sun started to set and insisted we abandon the map and the woods in favour of getting back intact before darkness. To this day I don’t understand the route we finally took. It involved roads and also dipping back into the woods in search of shortcuts and then doubling back on ourselves when we couldn’t find anything except impenetrable trees. I shouted a few times (and may have stamped my foot) to make Midi-Me listen to me. (I know. I’m not proud of that.) By the time we returned to the car it actually felt like we had walked 5 hundred miles and 5 hundred more. But at least I redeemed myself on the outwardboundedness front.
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