Saturday, 17 October 2009

I told you this would happen. And it did.

I got lost in Ashridge Woods. Looking for deer. Despite having spent £2.95 on the map of woodland footpaths.

After five minutes walking in that direction holding that map in my trembling sweating hands, I can tell you we are DOOMED.

The map is totally wrong. None of the paths we are walking along exist on the map. The paths on the map do not exist. That sales assistant took a crayon and scribbled wild lines over a piece of paper then handed it to me and charged me £2.95. She should have added to that casual hand wave and cheery Turn left out the visitor centre GO FOREVER LOST INTO THE BLAIR WITCH WOODS OF DOOM, SUCKER!

I am keeping from the innocent gritlets the knowledge that five minutes into this deer stalking business that I am marooned and may never survive. You should hear what happens in the car when I have forgotten the GPS. The endless cry LOSTMUMMYLOSTLOSTWEARELOST has led me more than once to stop that car and fall to my knees by the roadside in despair.

And Squirrel is skipping along and says she really hopes we see deer! DEER! Tiger says this is the most exciting adventure to have happened ever! Shark says she has never seen a deer before and this will be amazing and beautiful. I say nothing. Tring could be a fourteen mile walk that way. I mean, look at this. Can any sensible person find their way through this?

After another ten minutes, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are all gamboling along gaily and I have only the awful regret hanging dense over me that I did not bring chalk and draw arrows on tree bark because that is the only way now I am ever to know the route back out of this wildness.

And then we see a sign! And for a moment all hope is revived!

Until I see it makes no sense at all. And now here I am, stumbling headlong into a lost black hole of bleak despair where only the shivering beech trees are muttering my name in derision. My heart is filled with wild dread. This is the unknown, the incomprehensible, the nightmare.

In panic I pass the camera over to Shark and brightly say, as if we are all having such fun deep in the woods, I say as we walk, photograph the lovely woods, Shark!

Because there is only hope left. If she photographs our left-right path through this uncharted territory, then I can skim back through the images and navigate with trees to safety before the werewolves find us.

And after half a mile she scampers back with delight and I look at it all in horror!

Hopeless! Hopeless! All is LOST!

So I say with complete confidence, which is the only time you can be sure I am a dead woman walking under the swaying sword of Damocles, I say brightly to Shark that of course I know which way I am going now, because you can trust mama on this: I have a map and I am taking everyone to see DEER.

And strike me dead, but five minutes later we see DEER! Large, lumbering hoofy creatures, a dozen or more, black and brown and dappled beige, springing and jumping in front of us. And the gritlets all but fall to the ground with the glory, seeing woodland fallow deer rise and fall with great beautiful leaps across the path, through the trees, then turn, herd again, stop, stare at us, then turn away, as if their tracks whisper follow us. And I am in awe and despair all at the same time, because now, deep in Ashridge woods, I have not a clue how to get out. The only certainty as the clock ticks on is that the zombies who live in the woods will creep out at dusk to tear out my living beating heart. And we still will have a six mile walk back to the car.

But now we have seen deer! Great snorting barking gruffling creatures! And stags! With antlers! After watching them, edging closer, creeping through the beechfall to listen to the throaty rumbling cries of the stags as those wild creatures lumber further on through the trees, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger will now assume the adventure is done, and we can return to the car. Like mama knows where it is.

If the cry goes up, My feet hurt, I am done for. And then Mummy? Where are we going? When that question comes, I shall reply, We are going in a big circle back this way! And the little grits will happily scamper along the path around me, looking for more deer, confident in mama's stride and purpose when I am sweating bucketloads of fear and laughing with the insouciance of it all! Of course I know where I am going!

After walking blindly in one purposeful direction, then eternity walking left, then straight down this path because there is no other, then here we come to a road! I assault a man on a bicycle, all but pinning him to the ground, because if we now turn left-instead-of-right, or right-instead-of-left, then add fifteen miles and an ambulance to this adventure.

We make the last mile along the hard roadside. Suddenly, at a bend, I recognise the curve, and the field edging the woodland. Thirty minutes later, we make the car, and this is it, sanctuary in the darkness, and the little grits know nothing of the lost bewilderment and confusion, but are squealing with delight, and happy, because today, they have seen DEER.


Maire said...

This happened to me once not so discretely either and it is terrifying. No deer either.

The Green Stone Woman said...

You did it, grit! You made the walk through the woods and you found the deer and you will be a hero forever! Hurray!

mamacrow said...

phew, glad you survived!

WOW on the deer - not easy to find!

sharon said...

Well done for finding the deer and the way home ;-0

PS. Remind me not to go bushwalking with you should we ever meet up here in the land of Oz! Speaking of which, cast your eyes over this blog for amazing photos and a tale of derring-do from Downunder

Potty Mummy said...

Have you ever thought of a career in script writing?