Saturday, 19 April 2014

London Loop: Harefield-Moor Park a.k.a. Beware of the Scary Animals

And so off I went this morning for the latest instalment of my Very Long Walk Around the Edge of London.  After fortifying myself with lunch at the Jimmy's World Buffet in the not very aptly named London Designer Outlet (not part of the route) my journey started back in Harefield (disappointingly, no sign of travellers this time).  After a couple of wrong turnings down suburban streets and a hill of somewhat alarming gradient (shown below.  The bluebells almost made up for the trauma of climbing it)
I found myself in what seemed to be genuine countryside.  

Put it this way, there were animals and everything.  

Yes, animals.  SCARY animals.  Not like wolves or yetis, or the Beast of Bodmin Moor, although I suppose in medieval times there may well have been a few of those peppering the English countryside.  Along with all those dragons and unicorns and things.  These were cows.

Now cows are quite sweet really.  They always look nice and friendly when they're on Countryfile.  Even the boy cows.  The difference of course, being that everything looks better on TV, even my rabbit-fur coat, which one of my students said made me look "posh" when I appeared on TV (don't ask) wearing it, but which in real life resembles a selection of soggy dead rabbits strung together in the 1970s, which of course it is.  And that's why I love it.

Anyway, up close, cows are, of course, terrifying.  This is because:
a) They are animals, and hence inherently unpredictable.
b) Although you usually only see lady cows, recognisable from their huge great udders, one always suspects that there must be a boy cow lurking somewhere nearby.  And I have an orange jacket.  This could surely be mistaken for red by a cow.  Also I have seen cows try to mount each other on previous expeditions, so one can never really be sure what goes on.
c) They are ridiculously enormous and more than capable of crushing to death little me.  This happens kids.  I have read about it in the papers, but for some reason these unfortunate deaths always seem to be hushed up.  Probably some sort of conspiracy on the part of the dairy industry.

Anyway, I got past the cows without incident (they were quite far away, and so probably more interested in chewing bits of grass than they were in me), only to cross into another field where there was.....

.......another enormous cow!  And this time it was stood right in front of me!  My entire life flashed before my eyes in a way that it hadn't since 2009, when I found myself halfway down a grade of ski slope that was slightly too difficult for my modest abilities.  

I was going to take a picture but I thought the cow might get angry and think I was trying to steal its soul or something, and my main aim was total non-provocation of the cow, whilst looking like a pro who deals with farm animals all the time, like I will have to if I am ever to fulfil my dream of becoming a Countryfile presenter (being from the West Country, I can do a pretty good farmer accent, and thus consider myself eminently suitable for the role).  Therefore I regret to say that there is no documented evidence of this cow, nor of its scary nature, but needless to say, the cow did not react to me-nor my orange jacket-at all, except to look at me briefly to see where I was going.  And thus ended my encounter with the cows.  I then came across a few fields of horses, who are possibly more scary than cows.  I'm not sure of the exact statistics, but I'm pretty sure that more people get killed by horses in one way or another than get killed by cows, but maybe that's because people are always trying to do ill advised things around horses, like ride on them, whereas very few people attempt to do that to cows (not sure why?  Perhaps I should attempt to popularise cow-riding as a sport.  Although come to think of it, I probably wouldn't be that good at it if I tremble with fear at the sight of one in close proximity in a field).  Anyway, here are the horses, safely behind a fence I'm happy to say.  A fence that they could probably jump over if they wanted to, but a fence nevertheless.  A nice psychological barrier between me and the Scary Animals.
Speaking of scary things, it was shortly after this that I found myself in the Actual Middle of Nowhere. Look!
There is literally nothing here (apart from my finger getting in the way of the camera).  And it was like this for AGES.  It occurred to me that if something bad happened, like for example if I suddenly went into premature labour, there would be nothing and no one to help.  FOR MILES AROUND!  What a terrifying day this was turning into.

And then, to cap it all off, I got lost in these woods.

Totally lost.  Fortunately, I did eventually manage to find my way back to the path, after the usual unwelcome hike along a main road with no pavement, which is what always happens when I get lost.  Why do they make roads with no pavements?  Does nobody spare a thought anymore for the humble pedestrian who finds herself in the middle of nowhere?

Once back on the main trail, and after a long period of time with no human company or interaction whatsoever, I finally stumbled across none other than some other walkers.  Other people go walking!  Around the London Loop!  Who'd have thought it?  They weren't Serious Hikers like me though.  Even though one of them had in his possession what looked suspiciously like an Ordnance Survey map, I noted that they were wearing jeans.  Jeans!  What if it had rained?  No Serious Hiker sets out in a pair of jeans.  They were definitely no match for me.
Serious Hikers not pictured in the distance here.  Just amateurs in jeans.

They did get to the end before me though, even though their wives were lagging somewhat behind having a bizarre conversation about what happens when you die.  Apparently, your "energy goes up to the stratosphere."  I shall be looking out for all those energies, next time I'm travelling by plane.  That is, if I'm not too busy worrying about my own impending death, as I usually am on planes.  And when stumbling across animals in fields.  And when finding myself on slightly too challenging ski slopes.......

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