Wednesday, 20 June 2012


Today brings the sort of circumstance that can be brought to a conclusion only by standing in the middle of a wood picking a fight with a telephone answering machine.

It is the evening that I have booked in company with the National Trust.

As agreed by them and me, and at a cost they have already swiped out my bank account, I have driven here across the country (losing my sense of direction only once or twice), sacrificed my dinner of non-allergenic potatoes, and rearranged our forthcoming trip to Nottingham in order to deliver the little grits for a booked 7pm walk-and-talk about estate management, parkland history, and the beauty of the beech woods which make up the grand and glorious Ashridge Estate.

I have booked, and they haven't. I suspect something has gone wrong about five minutes before the walk is due to start. No-one else has turned up. It could be the vile weather and a preferable evening's entertainment of sex and violence on the TV, but I suspect the National Trust simply pitched it wrong with the words come and see our new fence.

We have booked, of course, because I am a home educating smarty pants who has made it her cause to get out the house everyday on a mission of outdoors exploration. And I have grandly proclaimed that this term we will look at the social and botanical history of gardens (large and small), from which I will not be thwarted.

Seven o'clock, and for sure it has gone bellyup. We are the only people except for a snogging couple of teenagers and a man in an anorak suspiciously walking his dog round in circles. None of them look to me like the sort of warden I would trust to provide me with a reliable guide to managing estate woodland. I clench my fists. I want a green National Trust waxed jacket, wellington boots and a credible expression of authority.

Five minutes past seven and I am stabbing at signs and photographing them in evidence for the prosecution.

Ten past seven and I am pacing about the visitor centre, muttering dark curses at the shuttered windows, feeling like an anti-social hoodie who would now be entirely justified in kicking the ruddy door down thanks to being alienated once more by the National Trust who clearly hate me and have it in for me.

Quarter past seven and I'm snap-snappy-snapping into my mobile phone at a woman on an answering machine. Bizarrely, (because I am English), I then apologise for being cross. The machine pings me off and I really, really hope I delivered those words I'm sorry I'm cross in a perfect tone of passive-aggressive.

Twenty past seven I have done with the effing and blinding.

Determined not to waste the journey, I march the little grits on a pleasant evening stroll round Ashridge. I make up the history of the parkland for myself, then add my own appropriate punishment by way of a story about a little National Trust ranger called Goggles who becomes lost in the wood, loses all his clothes, and has his bits nibbled by wolves.


kelly said...

If you're doing a garden project come to the welsh botanic gardens. Cheaper than Kew with a good cafe and a greenhouse made of plastic bottles....what more could you ask for?

Grit said...

Kelly, Welsh botanic gardens is now on the list.