For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Sex, Death And The Path Less Travelled

Just beyond the Secret Wood there's a mile-long railway cutting. Two bridges span this cutting. The first one I named the Green Bridge (as opposed to the Red Bridge earlier on the walk). Now there's a constructed path up the bank to the eastern end of the bridge...


But I'm keen to rediscover the path my friends and I used to clamber up on the western side. At first it's choked with spiny hawthorn bushes. But I soon find a way through...



... and scramble up a path now less frequented...



... until I reach the meditative spot - part clay, part concrete - where I was in the habit of resting a while. It was also a good launching place for exciting forays into the girderwork, which is now getting very rusty I see...


It was once rumoured some daredevil village kid had tried to cross the cutting along these iron girders, and had fallen to his death at the half-way point...


There's a rather spooky, gloomy atmosphere here in the bridge's shade. It's a sunless place...


The whole length of the cutting itself is also slightly sinister. Often in shadow, it was regularly patrolled most evenings by a cousin's husband, who silently trod the path looking for rabbits, a shotgun over his arm. Back then, I suppose, the old railway track - not long disused - was, strictly speaking, out of bounds. But this faint air of illegality lent a pleasurable thrill to our boyish activities. This old sign, mounted in concrete and now lying horizontally across the path (having fallen long ago), used to say something like 'Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted: By Order Of The Railways' Board', followed by a long list of byelaws and regulations...


Here we dragged our bikes and searched for birds' nests and fantasized about girls. We entertained ideas about bringing girls down here, but we never did. Girls to us at that age - perhaps 12 or 13 - were a strange and exotic species, not quite of this world. Alluring, definitely, but untouchable in their mystery. Again there were rumours that certain village girls would 'come down the railway bank' to perform various acts - acts which were always left tantalisingly vague... One day I found a rain-soaked and well-thumbed copy of Health And Efficiency magazine in the long grass of the embankment. It absorbed me for hours. So this was what went on under those tight skirts and rippling blouses!


I climb awkwardly a barbed wire fence and emerge onto the lane above. As you can see, the Green Bridge is not a very pretty bridge, and it's in sore need of repainting. But both bridges - the Red and the Green, the handsome one and its ugly sister - are important talismans in my memory and imagination, landmarks of the physical and spiritual geography of my childhood, bookends to the Ur-walk trail...

To be continued...

3 comments:

Val said...

Well.... your title pulled me over (ahem.) but your story and pics made me stay.

Great post! : )

The Weaver of Grass said...

I love the way you are re-exploring your childhood Robert - sometimes it can be good to go back. PS word verification is pasityme!

gleaner said...

I love the photos and the story -