The Cup of Gold

The Cup of Gold 002

During the past week, my husband John and I have been going for a walk around Coldfall Wood after dinner every night. We can both sense that the darkness comes a little earlier with every passing day, and soon, it will be night time before he gets home.

When I open the gate to the wood, it’s as if I’ve entered another world. The branches of the oak and hornbeam meet overhead, so the area underneath is still and dark, the only sounds the chippy calls of robins sorting out their territories. These are ancient, twisted trees that look as if they’ve been caught out in the middle of a dance, and will start to gyrate again once we’ve moved on.

The wood is only a few hundred metres deep at this point. As we follow the path, we can see the sun setting, the space between the trees glowing copper-red, an abstract painting of molten light and matt black. As the path turns right, we are right up against the fence that separates the wood from the allotments. And there, in the fork of a small tree, I see something that makes me catch my breath.

The Cup of Gold 005

It looks as if someone has woven a delicate cup out of strands of caramel. In fact, it’s a spider’s web, layer on layer of threads twisted around and around the twigs. Beautiful in itself, it’s now backlit by the sunset. And to complete the illusion of something supernatural, every individual silken hair is moving gently in the whispering breeze.

Such moments, when we see something as if we’ve never seen it before, feel sacred to me, as if for a few moments we’ve been granted a view of the innate beauty and perfection of everything on this earth. It makes me wonder what I miss every day as I go about my business, oblivious.

In a few minutes, the sun has disappeared and the web returns to invisibility. We walk on, loop up onto the playing fields. There are dozens of crows here, digging at the turf, chatting away, walking around with their feet turned inwards and what looks like their hands behind their backs. They always remind me a little of Prince Charles – it must be that slightly self-conscious gait. Crows have such a variety of cackles and coughs and giggles and caws, and as they fly backwards and forwards from the trees to the football field, they use them all. This is a big crow community, and I wonder what they talk about.

Hitchcockian Crow

We turn back into the darkness of the wood, turn right over a tiny muddy brook, one of several that criss-cross between the trees. Towards the road, a big bed of reeds is growing, planted deliberately to try to reduce the polluted water that comes from the road above. There is a small scuffling noise in the brambles, and a rat appears. I’ve seen one here everytime I’ve taken this walk, but I have no way of knowing if it’s the same one, or if there’s a family. They seem to be especially common this year – maybe the warm weather has meant more picnics, and hence more food-waste, although the wood is normally very unlittered. The rat sits up on his haunches, gnawing at something that he holds between his little pink hands. He is surprisingly tame, and lets us approach to within ten feet before he scuttles off into the undergrowth.

The Cup of Gold 012We turn the final corner to head home. A young man wearing a beret and glasses is there with a small hairy dog. We say good evening, pass him by, go on a little further, and stop. There, amongst the dead leaves, is one of the biggest cats I’ve ever seen.

‘Hello!’ I say.  The cat looks a little unnerved, but comes forward all the same. It has a mass of long hair, in cream and tabby and swirls of grey. Its ears have little tufts on them, as if were a lynx.

‘He looks like a Norwegian Forest Cat’, I say to John. ‘What a beautiful cat’.

The young man turns.

‘Yes’, he says, “He is a Norwegian Forest Cat. He sometimes comes for a walk with us when I bring the dog out’.

The little dog rushes up to us, jumps up for a sniff and a lick and a scratch on the head

‘Careful’, says the young man, ‘He’ll cover you in mud’.

But it’s a dry evening, and so the damage is minimal.

‘It’s a bit of a pain when the cat comes out, actually’, says the young man. ‘I have to watch out for all the other dogs in case they chase him. He might be big, but he’s really soft’.

The dog runs up to the cat, who head butts him. They are obviously good friends.

And so, that finishes off a fairy-tale evening. We’ve had cups of gold, talking crows, tame rats and cats that go out for a walk with their dog and human friends. Coldfall Wood really is a magical place.

4 thoughts on “The Cup of Gold

  1. Pat Walsh

    I love this blog and your wonderful insight into the quiet corners and secret places of the natural world around you, and all the plants and animals and birds you come across. I always look forward to reading your latest post and come away from it feeling all the richer for having had a glimpse into your world. Thank you!

    1. Bug Woman

      Thank you so much Pat – I am delighted that you enjoy the blog. I love writing it too! It means that whatever else is going on in my life, I have to pay attention to the plants and creatures around me. It’s great to know that other people feel the same way.

  2. Lynn D. in Oregon

    If you had started your walk five minutes earlier or later you might not have caught the light on the cobweb. There are webs like this and the more traditional kind all over my backyard. It is necessary to walk with a stick and gently dislodge the webs before continuing. (They are reconstructed by morning) In a few weeks they’ll be covered in dew drops and when the sun shines through them they look like strings of tiny electric lights.

    1. Bug Woman

      So true, Lynn – five minutes earlier or later and I would probably have walked past. And I know what you mean about the spider webs and the dew….I am fascinated by the way that different species of spiders create different kinds of webs, but also that individuals of the same species seem to have distinctive ‘styles’…more on this in future blogs, I’m sure!


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