At the end of the school day, I meet Youngest as he steps off the bus. It is not the nearest stop to home but it is chosen for a very good reason. All he has to do is, trot down a flight of steps and he is in our local nature reserve. Seven hectares of woodland, open fields, play areas, ponds and rivers and we, Moss and I, having walked from home, are there to meet him.
Moss thinks it is the best-place-in-the-world.
It was, years ago, the largest light tannery in Europe. Originally built in 1860 it covered a vast area which when it went bankrupt in the 1970s, was demolished and mostly turned into residential areas.
The upper section of the reserve is the wilder part, with a river winding through the fields. The pathway splits and gives the wonderful option of either following the water or dipping in and out of the woods. It seems silly to choose, so we tend to do both.
The river originally fed the mill ponds used to power the water wheel for the tannery, now it rattles over old masonry from the demolished sheds and mills. The fallen stone makes little nursery ponds for juvenile fish and any different water larvae. Moss feels it is her duty to swim and play at each point the path meets the river.
During May the woods are full of bluebells and the air filled with their scent. If you are quiet enough or early before the majority of the visitors, you can see herons, hare, fox and deer. During the day the ducks, coots, moorhens, the occasional swan and at the moment a single barnacle goose happily make use of the mill pond. Which, to my amusement, the locals call 'the lake'.
Having met up with Youngest at the end of the day, we walk around the reserve, enjoying the woods and the walking, while Moss plays and cheerfully tires herself out.
As you walk along there are so many different species of plants, you can spot knapweed, angelica, meadowsweet, vetch, saxifrage, rose, hawthorn and brambles. We've seen kingfisher and swallows, starlings and sparrows, chaffinch and bullfinch and the herons of course - for which we have a particular soft spot.
And, once we have explored and played (Moss) and swum (Moss) and walked and run (Moss), there is always the cafe on the banks of the mill pond. They serve chocolate cake in the most generous slabs (other cakes available and are equally delicious) with steaming mugs of tea. Can't be bad.