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A Lesser Known Spring of Avalon

As the weeks move the sun further overhead and the outpouring of green creeps into the narrowing walkways, I find myself moving on from the regular places I have come to sit. Some have grown inaccessible, their pathways submerged and guarded by a brigade of nettles and thorns, other places have become too shaded and are now overrun with mosquitoes. In my favourite spot under the cherries and maples, the sunlight, once shafted through Spring’s new growth, has now been blocked out by a full Summer unfoldment.

I was compelled to break the somewhat rigid walking routes of the past 6 weeks, to get out in search of new adventures and discoveries. Under the vague direction of a friendly pilgrim, I headed out over Windmill Hill, via Whiting Road, in search of a lesser known spring of Avalon.

Out of sight of the Tor, nestled in the bustling coombes, lay thick luscious meadows harbouring vast islands of bramble tumbling down to a strip of woodland and understory that beckons one into its chamber. Though I am only a mile from home, there is a strong sense of having dropped off the map, a common feeling in Avalon with its wide variety of contrasting landscapes held together by its central arbor.

The rolling humps of the coombe repeat reassuringly, like one is walking over the clasped fingers of a giant, each hill-let tucking itself neatly under the last to form gullies of green that jut back into the Island. A hollow of Old field maples, young ash trees, elder and willow meets me there. Old coppices of hazel pierce the bank like numerous spears, simultaneously thrusting into and reaching out of the earth. Many of the coppices are unmanaged and have grown thick arms that extend right out over the channel, like the collapsed pillars and arches of a crumbling civilization, barely clinging on.

The gully itself appears to have once held a free flowing stream, a meter or more in width, it now cradles a bare trickle that lays stagnant in places creating an atmosphere ripe for small flying insects. I sat briefly, but only briefly, as a botherment of mosquitos spoiled the tranquil atmosphere. Numerous and persistent, they zeroed in on my bare legs like a squadron of miniature homing missiles, sniffing out the only flesh for miles around. The larger ones didn’t even wait for skin, they simply inserted their syringe directly into my leg through my shorts. I’m sure one particularly burly looking mosquito sat there looking at me in the eye as it poked repeatedly to find a suitable hole.

These spontaneous opportunities to explore are inescapably tempting for me. Despite my inappropriate attire of shorts and t-shirt, and a lifelong allergy to June’s pollen, I soon found myself waist high in grass, nettles and a host of other uncomfortably thorny plants. I picked my way through badger lanes following the trough upwards into the mounds as far as I could go, attempting to seek out the source of the spring. Sadly no source was found, the brambles become too thick to pass further into the valley, and even with suitable attire, the path is definitely lost, passable only by ground dwelling furries.

Though the sight of much flowing water is lacking in this dampened paradise, the presence of water can be felt by touch and can be breathed into the lungs. The air in these corridors is cool and the surrounding grasses are of the sort that would suggest underlying water, thick and cushioning underfoot, but sharp and unforgiving to bare legs. The vast impassable thickets press back into the furrows and hint temptingly at the lay of the land beneath, humps and bumps that might suggest a continued sulcus from which an underground spring might arise, the wisdom of which will be left unknown for now.

Satisfied with my adventure, I took a seat with my flask in a sunny spot, away from the mosquitos, and thought to myself, “…Of all the things I’ve wanted to do and all the places I’ve wanted to be, to find myself most content simply sat in nature a mile from my home is the biggest relief to my being…”

Matt Witt 01/06/2020


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Matt Witt

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