Passing the Gumber Bothy, Stane Street carries on a south-west bearing through Eartham Woods but I leave it and turn north uphill. The leaves are just turning now but green still abounds, even in late October.
An occasional deep green yew tree stands out, a solitary sentinel, keeping guard over its friends. I’ve slept under many a yew; their low-slung branches darken the ground and insulate. They can be so dense that even light rain cannot penetrate.
The path is full of mystery. A friend walking up here one day spotted something unusual protruding from the ground and he bent down to lever the object from its resting place. To his surprise, and horror, a beautiful and intricate copper bracelet revealed itself, along with the owner’s skeletal wrist still wearing it. It turned out to be Romano-British, dating from around 100 AD.
The climb warms me and I peel off a layer, scanning the trail ahead to glimpse where it levels and my right turn arrives. The top part of Eartham Woods offers flatter ground, ideal for wild camping and perfect for hammocks. Widely spaced trees lend themselves well to our suspended shelters. Yellow and red leaves litter the ground as a passing wind whips them into a frenzy, swirling eddies in the air and announcing their fun with a whispered, ghostly rustle.
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My tree tunnel diminishes as dark fades to light and once more I reach open land just south of Burton Down, glad of the sun on my arms. I’m heading back now having completed the lower curve of my figure-of-eight walk. The aerial masts atop Glatting Beacon peek above the trees and shortly after I cross Stane Street once more, reaching the northern edge of Houghton Forest where my Roman footfall camp lurks in the woods. A Neolithic camp is marked on my map but the land offers little to agree with it. The long, gentle downhill eases south-east, wide enough for the occasional biker to pass, but today, Monday, all is quiet.
I reach the bottom and a kind ascent marks the final section back to Whiteways. Conifers appear to my right, and I glimpse the occasional oak, commanding its own section of woodland as other trees back away from its boughs.
My walk finishes once more at the cafe, even my steps now confined to history. As for my dream, if it even was a dream, only Stane Street holds any answers.