I’m not fully adapted to country life yet. Forward planning – or lack of it – is my failing. I haven’t yet learned to anticipate whether we’ll need more milk, potatoes or whatever before the next planned trip to The Great Metropolis (aka Ripon), and quite often find myself grubbing around at the back of the cupboard for acceptable substitutes.
Saturday, though, is the day we treat ourselves and buy the paper. There’s enough reading material there to get us through several days, and the sports section, discarded immediately, is perfect for any number of little jobs such as lining the rubbish bin. And yet today we had no excuse to visit Ripon, so would we have to go without our newspaper?
Well, no, there is another solution, but we have to reckon on leaving the house for well over an hour to complete the three and a half mile walk. The round trip to the paper shop involves leaving home along the path through the woods, walking along the riverside path to Sleningford Mill caravan site, dallying by the weir for a few minutes, battling along the narrow path now surrounded by chest-high spring flowers, and finally reaching the bridge at West Tanfield.
The shop in the village is where you’ll find most things. There’s food, drink, first aid and stationery – and a Post Office. There’s a community board where today I found news of someone selling chilli plants – I’ll be buying some of those . And there are newspapers. I bought our weekly fix. Then I set off home by a different route. Out of the village on the road, up the hill, turn right at a farm gate. The path here’s been slightly diverted, because the farmer’s made wide beetle banks to boost the number of farmer-friendly insects and spiders on his land. Through several fields of sheep, who come to inspect me, and along the drive of Sleningford Park, a country house. A final yomp along paths running alongside fields of wheat and barley, and I’m home once more.
It wasn’t quick. But I came home refreshed by the birdsong I’d heard; the sight of birds, rabbits, squirrels and sheep I’d passed; the flowers I’d spotted on the paths, different already from the ones I’d spotted only a few days ago; and all those country smells, from wild garlic to sheep dung to spring flowers. I’d had a better morning, I reckoned, than if I’d either gone without, or jumped in the car to grab a newspaper at the petrol station four miles away.