In the Shadow of the Oak

Wendy Metcalfe finds an oasis of peace just off the beaten track.

One of the things I decided to do during lockdown was extend the amount of walking I did every day. Before lockdown that would be a minimum of twenty minutes, so my first target was to extend that to at least half an hour.

My favourite place to walk is around the shore at Emsworth. Even in early lockdown it was within the rules for me to go there. But instead of walking round the mill pond with its busy crowds, now I struck off west, towards Langstone.

Where Warblington Road runs out and the beach takes over lies a beautiful remnant of oak woodland, Nore Barn Wood. Paths run around the northern and southern boundaries of the trees: quiet, shady, places to walk under the spreading canopy.

The southern path borders the shore, and part-way along it is an oak seat placed by the side of the path under the canopy of a mature oak. In April when I sat there the buds were just opening. During May they spread their fresh green leaves. By July, the verdant canopy was casting welcome shade from the hot sun.

Now I walk there most days, savouring the changing weather and the different tides. My dream has always been to have a house with forest behind it and the beach in front. I haven’t quite achieved that yet, but the woods are a good substitute.

Before lockdown I rarely came here, spending much of my time in the bustling village. But now, with the coffee shops closed and people to be kept at a distance, the woods have become my daily pilgrimage.

I have swapped people for peace, and I don’t plan to go back to my old life now.


Inspiration: I’d been meaning to extend my walks at Emsworth away from the crowded village for some time. Lockdown provided the impetus, and allowed me to seek peace among the oak trees.


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