Hobbs Cross

Mid-November, and it has rained. Black branches are showing through the last yellowed leaves of the hedgerows, and the asphalt is shiny and black and speckled with yellow. I am up against the edge of the map, and the end of the year, so efficiency is the order of the day. I had left the train at Harlow Mill, which lies close to a north-south grid line, and followed that south; now I am on the way back up the map, precisely two kilometres further east. There are few useful footpaths in these parts so I am following a road, but between Hastingwood and Sheering the dual carriageways of outer Harlow offer faster routes, and it is lightly trafficked. I venture onto a footpath around the edge of Churchgate Street and wish I hadn't: floppy-leaved crops deposit the afternoon's shower on my clothing, and the wet earth clings to my shoes. There is no sign of the marked footpath on the other side of the field. I find a hole in the hedge and force my way through. Bedraggled on the other side I cross a fallow field to pick up the path where it peeks into the next square. It is a relief to rejoin the road.