It is said that man makes paths; marks in the earth that pass through the ages. For me, the opposite is true. The paths make marks on man; lines, etched in earth and etched in memory. Trod in, stamped through. Lasting through life.
One. The green lane to Tall Chimneys. Cuts down from the main road; high hedges of hawthorn, hollin and beech, bowl out, beer paunched. The road arcs down the valley side, descending into perspective, the hedges narrow it further. The lane, stony at first, rim-rutted and hobnail trod, becomes rougher still; and as it sesses down the shadow dappled bank, clinging on, it is more worn, escaping grit and cobbles slide away under foot, hissing and skipping away towards the brook. The verges, thin and feather-edged, soak up feet marks like moss or putty or ebb-washed beach; pliant, moist. At the breach where the pitch steepens, the green lane has cut through; not the cut of a knife or a digger trough, but of feet, of soles. Working boots, cussed and torn; northern clogs clontering & sparking on old river cobbles, long white scratches; Sunday School best, moving lithely to and fro, avoiding the holes where the skin of the lane has rubbed free. Trees overhanging, branch and leaf locked together like a children’s party game: elder and buller, rowan and hazelnut, fingers intertwined. For the Horse Chestnuts they come, roots like flying buttresses propping up the steep soil sides; a mangrove in temperate loam. A rope swing over the water; conkers like Morning Stars, or comets, with flying tails in the night.
Then. The green lane at Timbersbrook. The roads round The Cloud follow contours, from above, rings of ever decreasing horseshoes. Not the green lane; clambering straight up joining one road to another: a shortcut for people long forgotten, stopping before the steep face where we used to boulder. Lichen shod, mortar-free stone walls of uneven shards of black-flecked gritstone, furry with moss, topped by beech & ash. The lane, not green but grey, rutted, rocky, a river bed made by man. We drove up; wheels bouncing and skidding; tyres pinging with air-taught melody, the steering wheel turning unrestrained, bruising fingers, snapping at thumbs. My forehead, a damp coldness of fear. This was not my car.
Two of the green lanes in my head.