Today, spring arrived in Wiltshire; a milky blue sky, crocuses in bloom and a woodpecker scuttling up the tree outside our house.
Where should we go, I asked; it's forecast for eighteen degrees?
'Let's not go far,' said Jane, and my heart sank.
For the problem with North Wiltshire is, dare I say it, there just isn't that much to do. There aren't any beaches, there are no mountains to speak of and open countryside is hard to find – what little there is tends to be over used and managed to the point that it loses any sense of nature (follow the blue dots or, for a more challenging walk, the red ones). I suppose it's pleasant enough dawdling through the lanes and stopping at ye-olde-tea-shoppes, but on a day like today you know the roads will be full of Sunday-drivers, hooting at each other in the tight lane by the garden centre. In any case, we need to walk the dog.
We went through the usual options: so and so woods (too busy); so and so gardens (too far); so and so country park (too tame); we could always go to the Cotswolds (oh God, please no). It's ironic that for someone who'd put landscape at the very top of his priorities, I live in an area which I dislike.
That's a bit harsh, I don't actively dislike it here; I just think it's all second rate, and days like today rub it in. If we'd been in Wales, I could have reeled off a dozen options, and whichever we'd chosen I'd be scurrying about to get everyone ready, not wanting to miss the best of the morning. As it was we were still undecided after a leisurely breakfast.
We filled our day in the end. I took the boys to the climbing wall; we visited a National Trust garden billed as Wiltshire's best kept secret (proves my point) and I went for a run through Corsham Court Estate as the sun started to dip. All pleasant enough, and no doubt a delight to many – but I can't help feeling unfulfilled.
The truth is, I've lived here thirteen years and yet I can only think of two or three places that truly lift my spirit. Perhaps I should look harder – or differently – perhaps I should stop searching for what is never going to be and appreciate Wiltshire for what it is? Maybe then I'll have more enthusiasm; maybe then I'd be scurrying around as soon as the dawn chorus woke me.
On the other hand, if we went to Wales next weekend... we could climb Carn Lleiddi, or walk the cliffs at Ceibwr, or kayak to Ramsey, or look for dolphins at Strumble, or build a beach fire at Abermawr, or watch the sun set over Presseli…
Home, as they say, is where the heart is.
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