Sunday, March 06, 2005

Hi Ho, A Strolling We Shall Go

Sunshine decided to pay a visit upon the Ribble Valley today, so Sarah and I laced up our hiking boots and took full advantage of this break from the winter rain and snow by taking a brief walking tour of the territory that immediately surrounds the housing estate where we live.

Much of the Ribble Valley consists of sheep meadows and pockets of woodland, both of which are in full abundance in our very own backyard. Coming upon one of the many public footpaths that crisscross the local countryside, we decided to see where it would lead us. Trekking past the grounds of the nearby Edwardian-era psychiatric asylum, I couldn’t help but notice the buildings of Stonyhurst College off in the distance; the Jesuit-run boarding school where JRR Tolkien had once been a teacher. The lush green pastureland that we were strolling through was his inspiration for Middle Earth, in the Lord of the Rings stories that he had famously written.

As I have previously written, dogs make up a considerable percentage of the local population, and we were soon joined by a very handsome, though somewhat muddy Springer Spaniel and his human companion. Our very knowledgeable fellow trekker quickly brought Sarah and me up to speed as to what meadow belonged to which farmer, before he and his canine friend detoured toward a new direction. Approaching the winding banks of the River Calder, we were not to be alone very long. Taking a brief break from their daylong chore of grazing, a trio of sheep greeted us with very inquisitive eyes and welcoming bleats, thrown in for good measure. Looking down at our mud-caked boots and up again at the fluffy-white balls of wool before us, I was tempted to ask them what their secret was, but quickly thought better of it. Bidding them adieu, our four-legged Q-Tips returned to their dining and Sarah and I continued on a journey that would soon bring us full-circle back to our front doorstep. We’ll have to definitely repeat today’s walk, but next time we’ll bring Mr. Nikon along for company.

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