Country people call it 'beating the bounds', this ritual walk I try to do each day, religiously tracing the village perimeter.
The late-winter morning is cold and misty. As I walk, I can feel my blood coursing furiously round my body. My booted feet drum the hardened clay. Dull, unaccented, unechoing sounds thud at my ears: the cough of a tractor engine, a dog's dry bark, pigeons clattering from the trees in the grounds of the old manse. I hurry by old cottages of brick and stone, lath and plaster. Bent almost double, I shoot down holly tunnels; climb stiles; unlatch and latch creaking gates.
A startled hare veers across ploughed fields, pounding its signature on the bare earth. A heron, emblem of the distant gravel pit lakes, flaps slowly over me, its wings broad and raggy-ended, pink legs dangling as it drops out of sight beyond a hedgerow. A green plover, an unusual bird round here, with crested head and black neckband, divebombs two crows above the sillion. Landrover tracks are secret hieroglyphs; and in one puddle a diesel spill is all rainbow.
This ordinary path, this ritual path, is unremarkable. It's just one of a thousand similar paths in the English Midlands. You'd walk it without a thought or backward glance. But it's my path, this meandering, circumambulatory path; my past, present and future are all bound up in it. It's my soul's artery, my metaphysical highway, the channel of my own lifeblood. It circulates round the very heart of my personal piece of England.