I watch her carefully as she uses her blushed pink tongue to inhale the sausages from the paper plate. She is almost human like, as she sits next to me on the bench, licking her lips and looking intently at the sausage in front. It’s well deserved; we’ve been walking for forty minutes up the hill that is ‘Clent Hills’. The day begins with a drizzle, the fields are dewy and the mud beneath my boots slurps with each step. The first hill to get to the top, almost takes my breath away. The incline makes it difficult to breath, so I take sharp short stops to regain my breath and momentum. As I’m walking to the top of Clent Hills, I notice the unusual stillness of a Monday afternoon during the school holidays. On my route, the only people I have encountered are a couple emerging from the woods on my right. They unearth a great grin as we pass; their cameras are dangling around their neck, perhaps nature photographers I wonder to myself.
The remains of a fire have inhabited a patch of grass, probably teenagers I utter, as the dog’s nose sniffs the remains. The singed grass is abandoned and a few bottles lay next to it. In the distance, I see a family grouped on a bench having a picnic. Their brightly coloured coats are similar to the huts of Instow beach in Devon. They are all wrapped up warm, whereas I have now removed my jacket and hidden it away in the backpack on my shoulders. I can hear the faint sounds of cars in the distance and the annoying tap of the dog lead against my aluminum water bottle. The winds pick up once I’m at the top, the gustiness distracts the Crow from flight in the path in front. I pass another dog walker, who puts his dog on a lead with shy mannerism. I smile, like all dog walkers and hurry past, trying to prevent our dogs to meet, I would be there for hours otherwise. Over the hill we go, the smell of fresh air tickles my nostrils and I accidentally step onto rabbit droppings with each step. As we wave off to the left-hand path, the view of Worcestershire is exposed. The green pastured land looks peacefully positioned below but in the distance, the greyness of the city taints the naturalist view. Where there are green fields and farming lands, the grey chaos of the town never seems too far behind.
These fields are covered with common ragwort, willow herb and grassland, there are more people as I start to wander the path. The mud beneath my Clarkes boots causes me to lose my footing, as I slide slightly down the slope. As we continue to follow the path, we pass many benches that have shared hundreds of memories. I pause for a moment whilst sitting on a bench, marveling at the view ahead. I can hear laughter in the distance and so I look behind me, up the hill directly behind my bench was a young boy on his. The boy’s feet dangle over the seat, he’s too short to touch the ground, he sits there alone wearing a Captain America T-shirt. I wonder what he’s doing up there, looking at the view, pondering life’s biggest questions perhaps? He catches me staring, so I hastily turn to the view and creep to the edge of my seat. We begin to walk again.
A few minutes on and we come to the woodland area of Clent Hills. Children are hiding behind trees, playing with their friends. Parents are gossiping on the side trails and dogs are sniffing the muddy path ahead. There is so much green as I pass the makeshift playground on my left, constructed from wood, bark and leaves hosting a compilation of children’s imaginations. “We’re close”, I tell Dottie, my four-legged companion. Her legs have drawn tired from the strain of the hill, although a young dog her legs are barely 10cm long. I watch as she takes the lead, to the hut ahead. The air is still slightly damp, but the sun continues to shine through the gaps in the forest of trees.
I hook the clasp of the lead through her collar and stroll to the hatch, eager to relay my order to the cook. “Tomatoes on toast and a sausage for the dog”, I ask politely. Muddy paws are stamped across my jeans as I collect our order from the kitchen. We sit on a bench in a park full of walkers, and each takes a bite from our lunchtime treat. The saltiness of the tomatoes and the toughness of the skin assemble in my mouth, as I watch Dottie inhale the last piece of sausage. “It’s worth it”, I say to her as I wash down the crumbs in my mouth with a can of Diet Pepsi.
We begin our walk back down the muddy path towards the car, taking in the views of woodlands, grasslands and countryside views. Renowned for being a slice of Haven in the heart of the busy Midlands, Clent Hills is a beautiful part of the county. Within these woods there’s an encouragement of natural play, as well as the opportunity to see a carpet of bluebells in the spring months.
Before hurrying down the hill to continue a day of errands, I decide to sit on an unmarked bench. Most benches here are engraved with memories of family passed. But this one is unmarked, yet to be chosen. Its wooden structure seems relatively new, it looks onto the views of the Midlands with fresh eyes, unworn by the passers by. I’ll stay here for a few moments admiring the view, swinging my legs through the gap in the bench, still unable to quite reach the floor yet.