Mr Malcolm very kindly organised a field trip to Kingley Vale so that we could look at the really ancient trees. In the event, there was him and Miss Livingstone and four of us pupils. We met and set off in convoy. Me and Tommy mac had to go in Miss Livingstone's car cos she said she wanted to keep an eye on us. She didn't need to worry too much about me cos I had already given Mr Malcolm my word that I wouldn't do anything to let the school down in public. Of course that still gave me plenty of scope to cheek him when there were no non-school people around, so I did. (And I paid for it last term!!)
First of all we had to walk down this long path. It was a whole kilometre long but reasonably flat so we made good progress along there. Just inside the start of the walk was a hut. But not just any old hut. It had the history of Kingley Vale from ancient times right up to the present in words and pictures around its walls. There was a picture of Vikings and Romans fighting, not Tommy Mac and Chris Pike, but the original ones, they looked awfully fierce.
We pottered off along the forest path. You should have seen the yew trees. They were absolutely amazing. They were really high, and so thick, the trunks wee massive. Some of them were reputed to be 2,000 years old, which meant they were saplings when jesus was doing his Ministry. A lot of them were hollow inside, they had been attacked by a fungus called chicken of the wood, but the outside bark still lives and nourishes the tree. Some of the branches had bowed down to the ground in places, and put out their own roots making new trees. In one clearing we saw this tree which was just a stump with roots sticking out either side, and it looked like a giant crab. I could just imagine it at twilight, or when the mist was lying on the ground, it would look like a giant creature looming out of the forest.
Mr Malcolm had made out questionnaires and brought along a hand-out. We stopped at all the posts on our walk (all 25 of them) and read about the surrounding area. We picked lots of leaves from the various trees, oak, yew, all sorts of species. We even found some flints on the ground.
Miss Livingstone decided that we should eat our lunch before we tackled the hill up to the tumuli. She and Mr Malcolm hogged the bench out in the valley,and the four of us settled down on fallen tree trunks just inside the wood. It was fun eating our packed lunches in the open air. Miss Livingstone came across to make sure that we were all right and to have a cherry stone spitting competition with Tommy mac. So in years to come, there might even be cherry trees in the forest! Unfortunately Miss Livinstone spotted the cider which Tommy was polishing off, and smelt the cigar which Chris had been smoking, so they got into trouble last term too!
The path up the hill was hard. It was steep, it was stony, and there was a massive drop to one side. And there were no loos on the site at all. There were however lots of bushes. Our beloved headmistress disappeared at one point, clutching the toilet roll (Andrex I believe, keeping it in the family) which she had thoughtfully remembered to bring. She returned to us after a suitable period looking distinctly flustered. The toilet roll had made a dash for it down the hill, and it was only some very slick footwork on Miss L's part which prevented it from disappearing completely!
We carried on to the top of the hill, taking increasingly more frequent stops for rest. The views were spectacular. We could see the sea. And away across Portsmouth we even saw the dark shape of the Isle of Wight crouching on the horizon.
We trundled on and eventually we reached the barrows, the tumuli on the top of the hill. Miss Livingstone explained that the larger one was a bell barrow. Mr Malcolm then annoyed her by walking onto the top of one of the barrows! Miss Livingstone reckoned they should be fenced off to avoid any more damage to them. She pointed out this pond barrow which was close to the other barrows, it was a sort of circular hollow in the ground. We discussed whether or not there might still be people, or the remains of them, inside the barrows.
From there, thankfully it was downhill all the way. It was a lot easier but we still had a fair old way to go. Eventually we came upon the path back to the car park. I don't know how the others felt, but I simply plodded along there, one foot in front of the other, and prayed for a sight of the cars! Nonetheless I was chuffed I had made it all the way round, even though it took us five hours for a walk that was advertised as 1.5 hours duration! I'd had to be rescued at Stonehenge!
We went back to Mr Malcolm's home for a very welcome cup of tea and chatted for a while. Two of the pupils had to go back home, but Miss Livingstone said Tommy Mac and me could come with her and Mr Malcolm for dinner if we promised to be good. Well of course, with the lure of food of course we were going to be good!
First of all Mr Malcolm took us to this lovely pub. it was right by the sea, and looked amazing. However, once we looked at the menu, we decided we would have to go elsewhere. I know my Guardian would have had lots to say if I'd paid the prices they were asking. It would have tied up my pocket money for the next six weeks!
Instead we went to a Carvery where we had a scrummy meal, and even scrummier desserts. After that we had to say goodbye to Mr Malcolm and make our way back to the rendezvous where our guardian's cars were waiting to take us back to our individual homes.
It really was a super day, and I hope we can have some other school field trips in the future.