Sunday, 1 February 2009

Winter Sunshine on Blakemere

The Forest is different now. My Gran's cottage has gone. Mam Blain's cottage has gone. Pear Cottage has gone. And all those old characters who wandered the lanes and footpaths, old men who would walk on with no more than a nod and a grunt when, as kids, we had the Forest for our playground. They are all gone as well.

There are lots of new features. A Visitor Centre. (What on earth is one of those? we would have wondered all those years ago.) A camp site. A cafe in the booking hall of the little station. And Blakemere, the lake. None of them were there when we were kids. Neither were the adventure trail - Go Ape - high up in the trees or the carefully mapped out routes for bike riders together with all the visitors which they bring.

I'm not grumping. Far from it. I love this place and I think it's great that so many people come here day after day, week after week. This is a living forest, well-loved by thousands of people and that's just how it should be.

Nobody except me, of course, ever meets Susan Ridley in the Forest, or Thos Povey, the white-haired old rogue in a Homburg hat and an old army greatcoat as he wanders the tracks with his donkey. But the Forest brings them to life for me with all the other characters of my novel. And I wonder, sometimes, who else among all those visitors come here to meet their own special creations.

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