Perverts and loose women. Kent it seems, is full of them. That is, if you think that a single woman buying herself a drink or a man walking in the woods is a little suspect.

A WALK IN THE WOODS

This is not going to be a commentary on the very amusing book A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.  I love everything Bill Bryson writes, and that account of his stroll through the Appalachian Mountains is just as captivating as the book that first bought him to my attention – Notes from a Small Island. No, I want to talk about some other woods, not nearly as famous and covering less than a dozen acres I guess.

You see, I am going to go all parochial on you this week.  I am going to talk about Ashford - my town – the place where I choose to live.  Regular readers of this blog will know that I spend precious little time here these days, my work dictating that I slice myself up throughout the week so that I can maintain gainful employment by giving little bits of me to those who will pay for my alleged knowledge and wisdom in far flung corners of the Kingdom.

When I am at home, I luxuriate in the ordinariness of it.  On those rare occasions that I get to spend a whole day at my desk, I will often break from my writing and phoning and take a stroll up to The Warren, an ancient gravel pit a mere half mile from my house - a quarry of sorts, that has in recent centuries evolved into a wondrous woodland boasting a plethora of flora and fauna.

A man walking alone in the woods does raise a few eyebrows in the same way that a single woman entering a bar room does.  At times like these, I wished I still had Alfie my dog, for a lonesome man in a copse suggests at best mischief and at worse some perversion of character.  But I do it anyway, since only in this ancient wood can my creative thoughts run riot and my mind conjure up memories from the reservoir of my personal history.

There is a tree in this wood that must have been there when poor John Brown was burned at the stake for heresy on command of the Archbishop of Canterbury, at the bottom of Ashford’s East Hill in Martyrs Field.  That was in the sixteenth century but I still hurt for poor John every time I pass the spot of his execution.  How a so called man of God - the Archbishop no less - could have perpetrated such a crime against a fellow human being stirs my soul with anger even now.

The tree of which I speak at The Warren has a girth and a stature that suggests that men and women have sealed deals and made vows beneath its spectacular panoply of green over many hundreds of years.  Silly I know, but I call it The Truth Tree, for every time I pass it I renew my own vow to always be truthful, especially to myself. It reminds me that my life is transient and that this tree will outlive me for sure – that is so long as it is protected by Ashford Borough Council from any threat from the developer’s incessant creep.

My tree reminds me too of being a teenager and visiting the famous Wilberforce Oak near Downe in North West Kent – a place where a covenant was made between righteous Christian men that would in time see the end of the vile trade in slavery.

There is no moral to this little account of my trite meanderings in an autumn forest.  Only perhaps a plea that the next time you see a single lady walk into a pub, please do not assume she is on the pull or looking for business any more than you should assume that a lonesome man in a wood is up to anything remotely questionable – unless of course you see him talking to a big old tree.