A regular muddy challenge inspires a little creativity.

I am lucky to enjoy a walking commute to my office each day. Come rain or shine, morning and night, my regular 3km walk brings multiple rewards twice every day. Striding through the countryside listening to songbirds at dawn and owls at twilight lifts my soul, my Italian spinone loves the walk, and its good for my physical and mental health too.

There is, however, one section of the otherwise tranquil ramble which tests my mettle for about half of the year. As soon as the autumn rains arrive, underground springs come back to life and water spills along the heavy clay soils. Three hundred metres of my route turns into a quagmire, powerful enough to remove wellington boots, even when they’re tightly buckled at the calf. In places, the water comes almost to the top of a pair of full wellington boots. The mud sucks and pulls, the feet slip and slide, and it is easy to loose your balance.

The best solution for anyone brave or foolish enough who is prepared to traverse this stretch is to use a stout stick for additional support. It’s partly what inspired me to include a method for making a thumbstick in The Tree Almanac 2024. I’m not a fan of using the stick for the entire commute. My solution — I’ve fashioned a rough thumbstick which I keep stowed at one end or other of the treacherous section, hidden among the trees and shrubs until I return. I cut a straight and thick length from some hazel coppice which had a good fork at one end, which I then widened out enough with a penknife until my thumb rested comfortably.

My experiences with this challenging route have also inspired me in various creative ways, including writing some verses which I compiled as The Chestnut Puddle.



Rule One — Hands should be removed from pockets prior to initiation, and arms put to effective use as active pendula.
If you must, then there are five golden rules to be observed,

Rule Two — Stride should be hastened and shortened, aiming to mimic a caterpillar tracked vehicle.
Which must never by negated, however brave and fit,

Rule Three — The heel must never strike forwards with misplaced confidence, nor the calf muscle engaged in pushing off from the toes.
At any time, especially by night,

Rule Four— Release a canine companion from the leash in advance of the traverse, remembering that her four legs are shorter than yours.
In the depths of winter’s embrace, to avoid a filthy demise,

Rule Five — Beware low branches hanging thick with the prickly husks.
When traversing a sweet puddle of chestnut, spun with silver shards.

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