North Weald


I get lost on the derelict golf course. It has been closed for two years and the desiccated ground is covered with tall thistles and thorns, hard and dark. I am forced back several times. At length I emerge somewhere along Rayley Lane and head north into the traffic.


The road has no footpath and the verge is only just wide enough to walk down. Among the blades the fast food detritus blooms bright in the sun, red for fries, blue for fish.


The lane is blocked by a new-looking gate, but there is a footpath down at Delved Bridge, so I feel justified in cutting across the dried mud of the neighbouring field to bypass it. But the bridge proves to be more of a culvert, with thick undergrowth continuing on both sides of the lane, and I have crossed it before I realise. There is no way down to the stream bank on either side. Watched by cameras on the gate to the adjoining airfield I sigh and start the hot trudge back to the road.


It is another kilometre before a trackway leads off the road to the left. There is no sign and no visible path to match the right of way, so I follow the field edges as far as the embankment of the M11. There is little shade on these fields, and I have not brought enough water. Under the embankment I cross the tiny Cripsey Brook that runs down to Delved Bridge: here little more than a moistness, a memory of a current. But it is enough to support a dozen trees and I sit under one for a while, fanning my beaded forehead, the constant fry of traffic behind me.