There are some days when walking into my bedroom feels like the journey into Narnia. Not because it resembles a wintery forest frozen in time with no hope of Christmas. It was a day when I was feeling especially tired, getting home around 8pm after the Friday shift at the gym. The space where the door opens into my room is as narrow as the doorway and just a little longer than the door. Hanging up on the back of it are twice as many hoodies as any person really needs. So as the door opens hoodies meet wall creating a soft resistance pushing back at you. Not exactly the same as walking through a wardrobe of fur coats but similar enough to inspire the reference.
The feeling came again a few days later. While in an actual wood this time. I had finally got myself to go running at Wytham Wood for the first time. It was surprising how quiet it was there (although you do need a (free) permit so perhaps it shouldn’t have been). I saw family, children and grandparents, and a few men with chainsaws doing maintenance but then I was on my own for most of it. Scrunching through the dry, fallen leaves trying to make sense of the routes. Definitely less odd to be thinking of Narnia while surround by trees although again, not a snowy, winter wood but a warm, autumnal one. As I ran I decided it must be that these different experiences both felt comforting to me and it was that triggering the association. Reading The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe (and seeing the series on TV) is one the stronger memories from when I was young. I collected all seven of the The Chronicles of Narnia and read each of them more than once so that world is very familiar to me. And books and stories had a big presence in the family in general.
There’s an even older connection to woods and forests that make it feel like home. The family business my grandfather on my father’s side grew up and worked was a sawmill. At one time from the New Forest but moved to Studley in Wiltshire (where my dad and his sisters grew up). Although the business was no longer in family by the time I was around Grandad was still active with carpentry in the shed and I still have a child sized chair and dolls crib that he made. Studley, where the business was, and Derry Hill, where the family lived, are on the edge of the Bowood Estate. In retirement my grandfather and grandmother worked there as security and in the shop so us grandkids would get in for free. Often going in to play in the adventure playground which is no-tech and built out of trees, occasionally walking around the gardens, sometimes just walking in the woods in the land just outside the gates of the estate. In the archives somewhere there’s home video from Grandad’s camera of my sister and brother and I out on a visit to Bowood. I would have been about 9 or 10 then so it’s hidden away on VHS and hopefully will stay that way!