As I approach the Highfield farmhouse a young girl playing with a ball and a dog excitedly runs up to me…
“Are you staying with us tonight?”
Apparently her inhibition of strangers is not a problem. Being so free out in the country would have that healthy effect, or so I would imagine. The smells of a working farm fill my nostrils as the young girl runs inside to fetch her mother. I play with the dog as the warming sensation of “being home” quickly settles into my bones.
The mother’s name is Julie, and as I enter the home I get a quick history lesson of this place. It has been in Julie’s family for over 200 years, and she and her husband still work the farm every day with their crew. I can hardly imagine so many generations of a family living under the same roof for such a long period of time.
I feel like an instant part of her family as she shows me to my room, then lets me know that the closest pub for dinner is about five miles away, but her or her husband will gladly drive me to and fro. I accept the generous offer and plan a time to depart in about an hour.
Showered and feeling refreshed, I climb into Julie’s car. It feels so strange being in a vehicle again, almost unnatural. I can not help but marvel at the quickness in which we arrive, mere minutes compared to the hours it normally would have taken me by walking.
The Drover’s Rest pub has tasty cider ales and wonderful home cooked meals. I sink into a dark corner of the pub, imbibe and eat to my heart’s content. I step outside and within minutes Julie’s husband, Martin, arrives to whisk me back to their home. We talk in the friendliest of tones about the area, his hobbies, etc….
The storms are whipping across the salt marshes as the sun goes down. I watch from my large bedroom window as a giant spider makes its way across the floor and under a dresser. Every creature out here has its own place, even myself. I let the spider be and fall to sleep listening to the wind howl and creak throughout the old home.
Eating a hearty vegetarian breakfast the next morning, Julie lets me know that I can go explore more of the farm if I so desire. With only six miles left until I reach the end of my Hadrian’s Wall journey, I gladly accept her offer and head on outside.
The rains from last night have turned the dirt roads into muddy trenches that are seemingly impossible to pass without becoming knee deep in mud. I eventually find a crossing, although it requires me to jump about four feet into a thorny bramble bush. I get a thorn stuck in my forehead, causing minor bleeding, but I can carry on with my exploration.
It is at this point in the story where the Mad cow enters. The cows along my journey thus far have been curious, a tad skittish, but docile. Mad cow changed all that. As I entered the field where a group was grazing, Mad cow split from the herd, eyeing me with malicious intent.
Then he starting coming after me, slowly as first, then with more speed. I laughed at first, then started to pick up the pace as Mad cow got closer….
I hopped over a fence and up onto a raised dirt platform. This allowed me to survey the area with a 360 degree view. Mad cow realized that he couldn’t get to me, but stayed on his side of the fence, eyes never leaving me.
It was at this point that I started talking loudly to Mad cow, trying to come to an understanding. Crazy, I know, yet at the time it felt completely natural.
Mad cow eventually left me alone, and so I continued wandering around the farm, miles in, lost and content as the rain started to fall again.
I leaned against the trunk of an old tree as the rain picked up its pace. I see pheasants for the first time. Strange dogs become my companions for small stretches before disappearing back into the countryside.
Eventually I make my way back to Boustead Hill. I say a final goodbye as I walk past the historic properties, and reconnect with the Hadrian’s Wall path.
A little under six and a half miles until the end. The rain starts to howl and dump in buckets. Fitting for my final day.