In Brookmarsh Woods
People’s Friend Specials|Issue 143

Rain or shine, off we’d go. Even when Dad’s pace got slower . . .

 

Susan Blackburn

MY father. My hero. My mainstay.As well as being a great botanist, my dad was an enthusiastic walker. Every opportunity, rain or shine, off we’d go in his beloved old Land-Rover to Brookmarsh Woods.

He always made sure one of his pockets was full of sweets, filched from Mum’s sweetie jar, for us to munch whilst we walked. Into another pocket he’d push biscuits for our two Labrador dogs.

Dad was a walking encyclopaedia on every aspect of nature. His fascination with all living creatures, including the species that could be spied in the spectacular lake nestling at the heart of the woods, rubbed off on me.

That’s why, I guess, I ended up as a marine biologist.

As I grew older, what with school work and girlie gatherings, boyfriends making an appearance, and eventually university, I had a bit less time to spend visiting the woods with my dad.

Always, though, I could talk to him about everything, including my career choice of which he heartily approved.

By the time I had launched the first tentative steps of my career, however, for a youngish man he had grown worryingly frail.

So, on my visits home, taking the place of the woodland walks, most of the time we settled on enjoying a coffee, or something stronger, before the roaring fire in his study. In the summer, we would sit on the patio in our stunning garden. Gardening was my mum’s absolute passion.

Once my career really took off I travelled all over the world. Despite his increasing breathlessness, whenever I was home, weather permitting, my father would still suggest we take the occasional slow amble through our beloved Brookmarsh.

“I’m afraid the ticker isn’t quite what it used to be, girl,” he would say with a smile, a shrug and a wink, which, of course, broke my heart.

These days, though, it was me who would whistle for the dogs, and it was my pockets that were filled with sweets from the jar my mum still kept well stocked, and, of course, with the inevitable dog biscuits.

Arm in arm, my dad and I would slowly stroll as far as he felt able, catching up with each other’s news. How I adored him. And how much harder it became each time to leave him. I was terrified, every time I said goodbye, that this would be the last time I saw him.

When the news did come it was still a dreadful shock, one which left both my mother and me reeling.

I found myself torn, too. Despite one part of me desperately wanting the comfort of the familiar, I could not bring myself to go anywhere near Brookmarsh Woods.

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