It was a dull day, one of those winter days when the sun struggles to pierce through the screen of dark clouds that shed a diffused light over the Clyde.
Christmas has come and gone and, with it, the excitement of giddy young souls over the crisp unwrapping of presents under the evergreen tree adorned with tinsel whose myriads of lights glowed and twinkled intermittently. Carol rhymes had died out amidst the bustle and laughters associated with the reunion of friends or family around the Christmas dinner that had been prepared with care and love, a lavish display of delicious roast turkey and creamy mashed potatoes soaked with gravy, tasty roast potatoes and vegetables smeared with cranberry sauce, the sound of animated discussions and shrill giggles over a cup of tea that had washed down portions of ice cream, chocolate profiteroles or mince pies, the pulling of crackers and the exchange of jokes as laughters echoed loudly.
The general feeling of being lulled into a festive and endearing spirit had gradually dissipated; and those fleeting moments of pure uplifting joy dwindled into mere fragments of memory that desperately clings to the mind, like the ghosts of olden times, crying out not to be forgotten.
The year had almost exhausted its course. Before it would end in revels and fireworks, we had decided to meet one last time for a walk into the countryside. It was understood that we would meet at the Inverkip railway station, which is just a few stops by train from where I live.
Originally a small village by the shore of the Clyde, Inverkip was now spreading up the hills, encroaching on the vast expanse of moors, meadows and woods as new constructions of housing estates were constantly under way. In fact, on our way up from the railway station, we crossed one of those plots of current and future homes, the Ardgowan rise, a grid of brown color houses of uniform aspect, lined up in rows showing, here and there signs, that families had settled in.
We came upon Spey road which is a country road running above the estates. We walked by a small power station whose skeletal structure of metal and wires contrasted starkly with the pastoral world around it. scant habitations arose and those were mainly isolated farms. The whole area was deserted. No one seemed to walk abroad except us and a lonely farmer who had lighted a fire in his grass field.
A few yards away, after crossing a small bridge over a brook that trickled down towards a coppice of firs, we entered an avenue bordered by aged beeches whose discarded copper leaves littered the ground of stones and gravel. Once we reached the top of the avenue, the width of the path dwindled and became unkempt. Ruts appeared intermittently, filled with water from the last rain. Overgrown thickets of long grass reigned in some places where the tracks of the path were lost in the wild vegetation. Uneven lines of trees stood on the edges of the track, amidst moss-covered stones which formed a sort of low wall. I could also see gorse shrubs with their blooming yellow flowers while entangled blackberry bushes had grown disorderly, as nature has gradually reclaimed the place.
But, then again, the land changed. We found ourselves stepping into a wider path of gravel and stones with patches of green grass which managed, somehow, to grown along the middle. East of the path, far off a lonely windmill and pasture fields where sheep grazed, the ground got higher and the hills rose, beyond which where the boundaries of the Clyde Muirshiel Regional park. There, the moor with its blasted heath, rush, long grass, moss and jutted rock was rife.
On the opposite side of the path, a line of beech trees of all ages formed a natural hedge with a few gaps, here and there, where one could find stacks of cut branches sitting next to a sapling. Open fields of green grass stretched over a swelling slope beyond which we could perceive the outline of a nearby forest. A solitary oak stood in one of those fields, defiant, spreading its branches towards the sky as if craving for light.
It was not before we approached the end of the path that lean and slanted hawthorns started to appear on the edge facing east. I imagined them in summer, luxuriant in their new foliage and bearing their scarlet bays. Now, however, with their intricate naked and prickly limbs, they looked like some lost, tormented specters.
The path abruptly came to an end. Ahead stood an iron gate, a farm store house and, adjacent to it, crops of golden wheat, their head swaying under the cold breeze, occupied a small field.
We moved past the farm structure to step on a country road which led towards a local Caravan park. As we walked through, the place was silent, devoid of any activity. It looked frozen in time, as if under a spell. It was strange to see those rows of caravans perfectly lined up in the still atmosphere of cold winter, their presence almost an affront to the surrounded scenery, and I was not sorry when, finally, we put the park behind us. In fact, I experience a sweet relief as soon as we set foot on a track in the midst of a dense parcel of woodland lying on the flank of the hill and following the Kelly burn, a stream which flows down from the Kelly reservoir to Wemyss Bay.
The last leg of our exploration was a walk on the footpath which runs parallel to the main road from Wemyss Bay to Inverkip, now cutting through narrow patches of trees, now offering an unobstructed view of the Clyde river.