Not having a job has its perks. After returning from finishing the Camino de Santiago this Autumn in Northern Spain, I have rediscovered the immensely satisfying feeling of adventuring on one's very doorstep. The experiences in Spain and afterwards in Morocco were exhilarating, eye opening and occasionally quite profound and propelled me to travel more in my native country upon return.
That is an interesting and refreshing effect that travel can have; the changed perspective when back in familiar territory, the desire to keep the freshness, alertness and positivity of travel with you like carrying an ember from a warming fire to a needed new wigwam.
So with this imported angle from the Camino and Al-Andalus, Christina and I set off amongst a familiar terrain of red-brick houses, pebble dashed tower blocks and inner-city green spaces. We zig-zagged past student houses and the cities tarmac arteries towards the old village of Horsforth. Popping into some beech woods, we stopped for some nuts and fruit on the ridge of what seemed to be an old quarry. The impressive scar was being re-populated by silver birches and brambles. Circling the periphery on the tyre marked mud-ways and then jutting down past the shed-sized rocks; the detritus of A.R.Briggs' quarrying, Christina remarked that the place had an eerie edge to it. Perhaps it was the absence of people in what was a once busy site, maybe the treeless land felt unnatural to be in after the woods.
We continued past the burnt out skeleton of a building, through a 6 foot piece of pipe, onwards past some fly-tipping (which I have never understood, the recycling centre is 5 minutes drive away on Kirkstall Road). We exited the woods near the ring road; its monotonous roar disrupting after the trees had successfully blotted out most noise.
Following the road towards Hawksworth woods, I noticed a scattering of white feathers ahead of us on the grass between road and pathway. Nudging my ambling partner, forewarning the potential presence of a recently nabbed avian, our eyes followed the trail of plumage into the beech hedge on our right hand side. In a moment of elongated confusion, surprise and shock, we locked eyes with a predator. The Sparrowhawks amber eyes burned up at us from the non-existent cover of the sparse hedgerow. Part-comedy, part tragedy; a single white feather protruding from its beak betrayed the hawks innocence. Had it have been filmed, a fitting voice over for this airborne hunter would have been a mumbled, alarmed "Oh! Erm. Bugger, you've caught me". We were caught in each others stare for maybe 2 seconds, but it is now forever etched into my brain. A closer encounter with a wild bird of prey will be a long time coming, if at all.
It flapped frantically, awkwardly reversing out of the hedge into the wasteland on the other side, carrying the white dove in its talons. Feeling slightly guilty for disturbing its mealtime, but elated at the same time at having this extremely close up encounter in such an urban setting, we walked on underneath a red Kites gaze. Back to well deserved cups of tea and reminiscence of the mysterious encounter with a surprised Sparrowhawk. There is wild all around.