"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Whitestone Walk - June 5th 2022 - Wye Valley

We were both far from fit when my 54th birthday came around - Kokila still wrestling with Long Covid and me with a chest infection that had kept me off any serious sport for a couple of weeks. Plans for a lake swim and a long bike ride were well and truly shelved, but we both knew we'd boost our recovery with something light and we also wanted a change of scene (Kokila in particular has been walled up at home a lot). So, I googled a few hikes in the Wye Valley and came up with one that has romantic poetry associations - Whitestone to Cleddon Falls. Last year I took it into my head to walk in the footsteps of Keats in Winchester, on the trails and hills where he wrote his ode to Autumn, so it seemed natural enough to seek out the "sounding cataract" that Wordsworth immortalised in his lines on Tintern Abbey. And it was just the right length of walk for us in our rather sorry state of fitness!

We found the car park at Whitestone easily enough and there was a space free, so we parked up and headed straight into the magnificent douglas firs that towered overhead. This was a lush and dramatic woodland, a little piece of Canada overlooking the Wye. We took the pace easy and enjoyed the serenity - breeze rustling the trees and birdsong the only sounds around. A few others were out on this easy trail, but not so many as it was a dull day with drizzle forecast in what had otherwise been a month of dry and sunny weather.

Once we got to the upper car park, Kokila headed back as she was limiting herself to walks of around 1 easy mile until her energy improved, but I was keen to push the pace a little and go a bit further. The trail was easy to follow, now out of the pines and into mixed woodland with ancient beeches and mossy oaks. There were three viewpoints overlooking the valley and although visibility was not up to the usual standard it was still great to gaze into the mist and see the outline of the river winding southwards below.

Working up to a brisk pace so I could at least break a sweat I navigated my way to Cleddon Falls, which as expected was pretty low on water and certainly more a silent than a sounding cararact on this occasion. 2022 is shaping up to be a long hot summer, though so far things are still looking lush and green as there was rain enough in the spring and plenty has been falling overnight lately (good for those of us who want dry conditions for cycling in the day).

I could tell that on the right day this would be a dramatic place to stand and meditate on the rushing waters, but it was only a tiny silver thread of a stream trickling over the huge stone brims of pools as it stepped its way down the hillside. Ancient trackways between stone walls took me back to the forest. At times I could see that the walls were hundreds of years old, as aged beeches had grown up in and around them, swallowing the stones of the walls and reminding me of Ta Prohm in Cambodia.

Emerging from the forest into the daylight again I realised how important it was go come out of the city on this special day and soak up some of the rain-washed air in the green of the forest.

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