Inspired by ‘My Favourite Place’ from the Scottish Book Trust, I thought I’d give the fave place blog post a whirl…
Having grown up in Eaglesham most of my earliest memories took place in and around the village. I remember playing football with my brother and his friends on the grass opposite my parents’ house, climbing trees in the ‘valley’, collecting conkers in autumn, sledging in winter and skating on the pond which sometimes formed after a thaw and refreeze at the foot of the best sledging hill. My friends and siblings and I clambered through tunnels (the big one running under the mid-road, and the little iron one just up from the Eglington Arms), built dens and played tig and hide and seek in the woods.
Yesterday my youngest son and I walked up to the woods planning to collect stones to hurl into the water gurgling under the three bridges. He favours stones – because they make the most impressive splash – while his older and wiser brothers prefer the ‘pooh sticks’ from my memories.
As we walked up the hill towards them, the woods – basking in yesterday’s unexpected bright sunshine – looked gloriously lush. On a crisp October day it’s difficult to imagine anything more beautiful than the Eaglesham woods in autumn, but the freshness and colour of late spring and the blossom on the trees won me over. This happens at some point every season, every year.
Once in the woods themselves we might have stepped back into my childhood. The same sun shone through the same huge and beautiful chestnut trees to leave patterns of shade on the orangey-brown floor of leaves. I pointed out the rookery high above us, in the same place it had been for over 30 years, but my son was more focused on gathering likely-looking stones. The descendants of the rooks I had watched as a child finally caught his attention as the shadows of their lazy tree-top gliding moved swiftly over the tree trunks and the dusty ground.
As he followed their shadows, fascinated, I took the chance to stand still and breath in the sheer peacefulness of my surroundings. The splashes and trickles of the burn, spilling downstream over boulders and fallen branches, was poignantly familiar. Birdsong and bees masked any distant sound of the village. It felt as though we could be a hundred years in the past.
This was where I learned to love nature, to seek out mushrooms and mini-beasts (though they hadn’t yet been promoted from ‘creepy crawlies’ in the 1970s). My school-fellows and I meticulously collected, pressed and presented beech, chestnut, ivy and hawthorn leaves for school projects. When we were older we took baskets up to gather brambles and the occasional wild raspberries on the outskirts of the woods.
After a while we headed back down the hill. Two-year-old feet had walked far enough and there were biscuits and juice waiting. A pair of huge crows settled on the grass near a line of magnificent chestnuts and, seeing them, my young son found his second wind and raced down the hill, laughing and excited, to chase them away.