A rainy morning

If there is perception, there is self and other – that which perceives and that which is perceived. In exploring my theme of being on or at ‘the edge’, I will only occasionally mention the quantum view of there being no edge. Influenced as I am by Buddhist teachings on ‘Emptiness’, I rather take that as read.  There is no edge to be found.   But there is the perception, the experience, of edge. It is here I will explore.

This morning it is raining, so I set out with my wellies and big, black umbrella. I walk up the green lane that begins at Charnley Avenue and finally joins Barley Lane, after making its way along the edge of Barley Valley Nature Reserve here on the west edge of Exeter. This green lane is all that’s left of the old Bowhay Lane, a route west in pre-industrial times.  The lower part is an edgeland between two housing estates.  When I first started walking it, this had been quite a dumping ground, despite the sign forbidding it.  Gradually, I, and others who started to care, have removed the litter and the worst of what had been dumped.

Although actually being surrounded by houses, as soon as I start up the lane I feel a sense of wilderness, of not quite knowing what is ahead, even though I walk this route almost daily.  Except for the sound of my feet and the rain on my umbrella, it is quiet today.  After it crosses over a street, High Meadows, the path slopes up into a sycamore grove.  These trees are large and old, older than the houses that now are only on the left edge, obscured by the verdant growth in the lane itself.  Beyond and above the lane on the right, barely visible, is the nature reserve.  This grove feels very different in different seasons.  In summer it is a welcome refuge from the sun.  In winter, its huge, spreading branches are revealed, creating shapes in the shadows on the ground. Today it is damp, leafy and dark.  The sound of rain echoes here.  As the path climbs out of the sycamore grove, there is a huge, old holly tree on the left.  The bare ground around the twisted, exposed roots of the trunk are a playground for foxes and/or badgers, although I have never found signs of a den here. Several small pathways created by them lead down from the nature reserve. The path continues up and the canopy opens into hazel and field maple. There is a wonderful sound ahead.  When I reach the Magic Tree (a hawthorn that stretches right across the path), it is directly above me.  A flock of goldfinches are at the top of the tree.  The accumulation of all their witterings have become one sound – a choir of birds.  This is part of why I have named it the Magic Tree. I stand and listen to this music of the edge.

Eventually, I continue to the gateway into the reserve.  I lean on the swinging gate to take in the view of Exeter and beyond. I can’t see as far in this weather as sometimes,  but the city, itself, is visible with low clouds hanging over it.  Through the gate, I am at the top of one of the hillside meadows that make up the reserve, along with overgrown hedges and patches of woodland.  Halfway down this hill is an island of scrub, brambles and small trees where, I have been told, the ruins of a WW2 German bomber lies.  I wouldn’t like to try to get in there to find it.

I turn left and walk along the top edge of the reserve, next to a fabulous edgeland between the reserve and the green lane made up of a massively overgrown hedge, hazels and bramble dominating.  This is the haunt of wrens, robins and blackbirds, with the various tits and finches, magpies, wood pigeons and crows as constant visitors, joined by summer migrants like chiffchaffs and blackcaps.  Very occasionally, I am gifted with a visit from a raven, usually near the top of the green lane, where the open countryside stretches towards Dartmoor.  Today, nothing much seems to be going on.

I reach the old path that leads into the woods.  The lovely bent ash is there – too wet for me to sit on today, so I rest a foot on a place low down where two small branches separate and lift myself up to where I can just lean against the big branch.  It feels comforting.  I lower my umbrella to listen to the sounds of raindrops on the canopy above me.  I can smell the wet leaf mould.  The rain in its restlessness is creating a kind of stillness – in my heart and mind, as well as in the birds around.  There are fewer dog walkers on the path above.  The fallen leaves from the nearby cherry tree shine red against the dark ground.  I know I will walk home soon, but choose to linger in the nothing-much-happening at the edge of the woods.




Author: MaryAb

Born in upstate New York. Moved to the UK in 1971. At home in Devon.

Author: MaryAb

Born in upstate New York. Moved to the UK in 1971. At home in Devon.

One thought on “A rainy morning”

  1. Delightful! I know this old path well and so appreciated your rain-soaked description of the hollowway in that wild landscape with its mossy branches, brambles and passerine wittering!

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