A walk in the woods

Published 6:03 pm Tuesday, November 27, 2018

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Thousands of people annually enjoy walking in the woods of Windsor Castle Park. It’s natural, lovely in every season and the paths are user friendly.

In our youth, walks in the woods were along less trod paths but no less enjoyed.

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One of my most memorable Sunday afternoons was spent with Uncle Bentley Baker on the farm in Surry where my mother and her five Baker siblings were raised. We frequently gathered there at the baker “homeplace” for an afternoon. Sometimes there was lunch or an evening sandwich, but often just a visit for a few hours.

My sister and I were among the youngest of the “first cousins,” but found camaraderie among others just a bit older.

That afternoon, the adults waxed into a nostalgic conversation about Roaring Spring, located in the side of a hill far down in the woods between Bentley’s and Timber Neck, where more distant ancestors had lived.

The spring, they recalled, gushed from a fissure in the hillside with such force that its coursing water could be heard a great distance, hence the name.

Someone — I have a feeling it was my mother, who never lost her spirit of adventure — convinced Uncle Bentley that we should walk to the spring, some mile-plus from the house. It didn’t take a lot of convincing and off we went. Eager teens and pre-teens trailing these elder siblings who were clearly taking a walk a memory lane.

Among the wonders that afternoon, we were shown the depressed graves of a long-neglected cemetery and, eventually, Roaring Spring. The fissure remained, but the roar was gone. A bit of water trickled out of the ground and down to a nearby stream, but nothing more, as I recall.

In later years, I came to believe — and still do — that the fissure was a natural well, drawing water from artesian layers of water deep in the earth. In the days of my mother’s youth, artesian wells flowed freely to the surface, often with great force, and this might easily have been the source of the water the Baker siblings remembered so fondly.

We had a small spring on our farm as well, and it still flows, I suspect, underneath a farm pond my brother built many years ago to irrigate crops. My father built a tiny wooden box around it, which, if it were periodically cleaned out, provided a small pool of clear water.

A pint canning jar hung on a nearby tree branch, ready to capture water for a thirsty field hand. That was good water on a hot day.