This is what we’ve been doing with our afternoons lately. After work and a big lunch, we’ll use the last couple of hours’ daylight to go explorking the many unmarked tracks in the hills and mountains around us – most of them not included on our walking maps. (We seem to collect maps. Maps and cookery books. And cats, of course.)
I’m rubbish at reading maps. Countryside maps, anyway. (Give me a city street map and I’m fine.) So there’s something quite liberating about heading off, without a map, and following trails to see where they end up, occasionally glancing back to note landmarks – a weird-shaped tree, the view of a house in the distance, fucking litter – to help us find our way back.
We’re still discovering new things all the time. Another hamlet above our village that we didn’t know existed. The beautiful beech forest that we had no idea was hiding the other side of the hill visible from my office window. (The track down into the forest is obscured and overgrown in summer. This winter it suddenly revealed itself to us.) Another day, we walked so far we ended up high above Etropole.
All this explorking has been possible because the winter has, until this week, been so mild. We had the customary heavy-ish snowfall in early January and then nothing but sun, sun, sun for a month.
What’s happening to our winters? I have this huge, padded, below-the-knee winter coat that makes me feel like Ernest Shackleton on an expedition (but probably makes me look like a football manager circa 1995). I’ve hardly worn it. It’s been too warm outside.
Still, it’s been beautiful weather for explorking.