Alex James: Running in the woods has its ups and downs

Rural Notebook

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I must have run 150 miles this week, all over the valley in perfect solitude. Bliss – and then, misery. I grated a shin and blackened a toenail on the home straight, tripped over a branch and wiped out completely in my own woods. I can't tell you how frustrating that was. I actually screamed, not in pain, but annoyance.

As I tumbled on to my face it struck me that this is easily the messiest woodland in the whole valley. All the neighbouring woods belong to dynasties, great families who have had them for generations and know how to look after them. I had a forester in here last winter, but he has only done half the job. He's cut down all the weakest trees but he still hasn't removed any of the brash from the tracks.

Still, there's no better way of keeping abreast of everything that's going on and what needs taking care of on than padding around the place. I'm becoming completely familiar with the landscape. I feel part of it now.

I was running up the hill by the abbey, heart pounding, when a huge lorry came tearing down the tiny lane. The driver screeched the brakes and shouted through the window, "Where's Ascot?"

"Next left," I said. He pulled a small parcel off the huge lorry's dashboard and pushed it towards me, steering with one hand, forcing me to stop running. "Yeah, next left," I said. "Nah, " he said. "Tried it." I shrugged my shoulders and he tutted and thundered up the road and turned right, away from Ascot.

Further up the road, on the brow of the hill, I saw the postman in his little van. I waved to him and he waved back. He once delivered me a letter that just had my name on it and "The Cotswalds".

Nearly everything that I order from the internet gets delivered next door by courier companies despite having six lines of mandatory address fields filled in. What a waste of everyone's time.

Well-off for water

I've had the water in the wells in the garden tested. They do the testing at the local hospital. The one by the back door has E.coli and coliform bacteria, but the one by the other back door (we don't seem to have a front door) is described as wholesome. I've hooked it up to a tap in the kitchen so we're drinking the stuff. Wholesome, indeed.

Splash and dash

All the rain has made "the going" quite exciting. Fields are difficult to cross at this time of year, lots of mud, sticks to the shoes like lead, but one of my favourite woodland paths has become a fast-flowing stream. Best fun I've had all week, silently running down that stream.

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