A few years ago now, when I was able to escape the ties of family and city, I was a great one for walking holidays. As someone who enjoys his own company far more than others enjoy it, a few days walking and exploring somewhere new was the perfect break from city life.
I had taken a room in the Crow and Shield, in Coreham and my intention was to set out each day and explore not the town, but its environs. I had purchased a one inch scale map of the county and poured over it in some detail, thanks in part to the very long journey that Dr. Beeching has seen fit to inflict on this part of the world.
Thus armed with a good understanding of the terrain, I saw no difficulties in setting off to explore. After all I had a good room at the Inn to use as my base of operations and armed with a wrap of sandwiches, a bottle of beer and a stout walking stick I felt equal to the task.
I set off one morning, and taking note of the scudding clouds over head had resolved to be back in the early evening, incase the weather turned too inclement for even my hardy soul to endure.
My plan was to head north from Coreham, to Marshwood Vale, and thence east to Marshbone Vale before heading back to Coreham. I had consulted my map before I set out, and there were several farms along the route that I am sure I could shelter in for a small consideration, should the need arise.
Once I left the town behind me, I could see in the far distance the remainder of the once great woods of Marshwood Vale, although the hills of Marshbone Vale were as yet hidden to me, due to the weather.
I had set off at a brisk pace, hoping to reach the wooded areas, or at least to be with in sprinting distance should the weather turn, however I became somewhat entranced by the landscape.
My eye was drawn towards small sections of the countryside; gullies that were invisible from this distance, until the tops of trees gave away their location. The furrow marks on large swathes of the hillsides caught my eye too and I summised they were land left fallow after use, although it wasn’t until much later that the real reasons for this became apparent.
I could see low lying farm houses and out buildings, built from locally quarried stone. In conversations with Sanders, the landlord of the Crow and Shield he told me that each farm was a small fiefdom unto itself, until the livelihood of one was threatened and the farmers would join en masse to support the other.
As I began to approach the great marsh road, I stopped near one of the farm houses and turned towards Coreham, mainly to see how far I had come and to take a drink of the beer I had brought with me.
Resting on the fence near the farm gate I saw on the grass verge a star and crescent moon motif, carefully picked out in stone, or more accurately small chips of white quartz.
I had heard of course of tramp marks, or signs, left for fellow gentlemen of the road. These would inform others about the household, wether money could be obtained for work and so on, however this looked entirely too ornate and far too conspicuous to be the handiwork of one of those great disenfranchised wanders.
The first droplets of rain brought me out of my thoughts and for a few moments I wondered if I should ask for shelter in the farm house. I considered the few scant miles I had travelled thus far to be insufficient, so gathering myself up I headed up the road picking the pace up as I went with the aim of getting to the woods as per my original plan.