Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words are what excite me. A recent trip to the countryside with E, however, caused me to temporarily reconsider.
It did help that the sticks in question were ancient oaks whose knotted and whorled trunks oozed literary inspiration, and the stones were pre-cambrian rocks jutting out of the lush green grass, predating complex life and highlighting just how tiny and insignificant our role within the context of the whole is. How I felt whilst picnicing atop one of these primevil angular giants is profoundly indescribable; to say that it touched me would be an understatement. E, who has endearingly mastered the art of breathing through her nose to aid the unleashing of unending torrents of verbage, was notably silent, equally struck by the almost spiritual serenity of our surroundings.
And this is why I love Bradgate Park, an 850 acre area of woodland, streams, wildlife and general natural beauty. Having spent a fair amount of time in the park as a child, I was astounded at the difference in my reaction to it. Whilst previously I had had to run around chasing a football/frisbee/ninja-like squirrel to consider the day a success, as a young adult I had only to open myself up to the grandeur assaulting my senses. Within seconds of crossing the wooden bridge into the park we were treated to a display of deer sunning themselves in the August heat, their velvety antlers shimmering in the light as they frolicked and fed amongst the bracken.
This was shortly followed by an onslaught of sensory lovelies in the form of the gently gliding stream, scintillating and coruscating light; the vibrant colours and odours eminating from the flowers, but mostly just the sheer space around us; the ability to stretch the eyes over fields and stone walls without encountering some looming concrete facade. The usual hustle and bustle of city life was nowhere to be seen, lanes of traffic replaced by neat lines of ducklings following their mother, rows of terraced houses ousted by rows of wildlife-inhabited hedges. The very people moved slower, unrushed, pausing even (yes city folk, this is true) to take in the beauty that surrounded them.
One of the only visible influences of man on this stunning landscape is the crumbling ruin of the folly known as ‘Old John’. In itself it isn’t awe-inspiring, but it’s moss covered bricks and sense of slow decay blend in with the vista in a way that I can’t imagine any other building doing. It is said that on a clear day, from this point, the whole of Leicestershire is visible. And I believe it: the site is 700ft above sea level, the highest point for miles and the panoramic veiws from the top are simply breath-taking.
Most of the history of the park is fairly dull, passing hands through the centuries from earl to lord to sir, enlivened briefly by the ownership of one Lady Jane Grey whose claim to fame lay in her tenancy of the throne for nine days before being beheaded in 1554. It’s attraction however, is by no means diminished, it remains a tranquil and unsullied scenic gem, remarkably within stones throw from the city. All in all, I had an incredible time and was left with fond memories and some snaps that would give Windows wallpapers a run for their money!
Try as I might to capture the splendour within this post, there are some sights and experiences that words, at least mine, just cannot do justice to.
More information on Bradgate Park can be found at www.bradgatepark.org