Take a Walk on the Wild Side

May 27, 2015 in On Writing by Irulan Horner

When I get really stuck on what happens next in my story and the answers feel just out of reach, I head for the hills (and valleys) of the beautiful English countryside for inspiration.

Walk1Spring is finally hurtling towards summer in a riot of smells, sights and sounds and so on this blustery Sunday morning we pack the essentials – camera, note book, pencil, flower guide, map, water and snacks – in a rucksack that feels far too heavy for just basic provisions, and head off into the wilds.

I’ve placed my story in the countryside around where I live, not faithfully in one exact place, but more a range of places joined together, as if I’ve folded the map to create a new landscape that suits my needs.

MapFor quite a while I’ve wanted to visit the standing stones and cairn in the woods near to where I live. So armed with my newly purchased Ordnance Survey maps we track down the location and park the Bug in an obliging lay-by.The bug

Inspiration be mine! I’m ready to sit in the dappled sunlight and contemplate the fate of my heroine, Rubia and her doomed love affair with the gorgeous Gentian… but no! Foiled at the first hurdle, or stile, should I say.

PrivateTurns out these Early Bronze Age sites are now located in private woodlands and not accessible to lowly tortured writers like me, who desperately crave some inspiration. So we turn tail and head off in the opposite direction.

My disappointment doesn’t last long as my boyfriend points out a wonderful Drinker moth caterpillar in its full furryCaterpillar glory. As we wind our way down the lane and into the woods my mind begins mulling over the relationship between my nine-inch faeries and caterpillars. The path turns in to more of a stream and the smell of wild garlic drags me from my musing. I just have to pick some! No idea what I’m going to do with it but I feel like a real feral faerie foraging in the
Ramsonswoods. I stuff a load of it in my raincoat pocket, as my essentials did not include a plastic bag for foraging, and the smell travels with me for the rest of the day. I happen to like this smell of garlic and luckily we don’t meet anyone along the way who might object to it.

The woods open up into a lush green meadow dotted with white Daisies, yellow Buttercups and Red Clover. I crouch down low to the ground to see what it would look like to be fighting my way through grass and flowers that tower above my head. Instead of the few minutes we take to cross the meadow, Rubia and her friends would take hours to do the same.Meadow2

Tree rootsMy main characters live in an ancient beech tree and back in the woods I spot some sturdy roots that could easily be hiding a secret entrance to a faerie’s home. Beneath some mossy stones there’s a cavern to see out a storm and rainwater has carved through rock to form faerie alleyways. In my mind I’m barefoot and free, following the call of the wind as I race through the woods. The steep slope we climb up becomes a huge muddy obstacle course for my diminutive faeries and the fungus growing on fallen trees becomes a delicious soup boiled in a pot over an open fire. It gives me a whole new perspective, pretending to be so small in such a big wild world.

In total we identify 55 different species of wild flowers, including Cat’s-ear, Common Mouse-ear, Germander Speedwell, Rough Hawkweed, Yellow Ark Angel and Black Medic, all growing in a habitat full of numerous bumblebees, damselflies, water boatmen, spiders, ladybirds, butterflies and mayflies. The paths, meadows, woodlands and riverbanks are teeming with life, not big things like squirrels, birds and rabbits, but tiny insects that make the world habitable for all of us. Somehow I must weave these amazing invertebrates into my story.