The farmer’s land and forest beyond was where Scotty and I spent our time during the school holidays. Influenced by Warlord and Commando comics, as well as The Professionals, we called it HQ and spent many a happy day in the wilderness. We trained, as best we knew how, in military manoeuvres. During downtime, we settled back and watched the blue sky and floating clouds. With the trickle of the stream nearby, we stretched in the summer sunshine, chewed grass and chatted the time away without a care in the world.
We explored much of that area in our time. Living on our wits and luck, we had some close shaves with our enemy, the gamekeeper. He patrolled the large estate for an aristocratic family with an impressively triple-barrelled name. On one occasion, the gamekeeper tracked us with dogs. Barks echoed over a rise as we broke cover to run downhill. In a panic, we waded the stream up to our chests and swam silently through the cold water toward an old stone bridge in the heart of the forest. Inside, we climbed on a ledge and spent a precarious ten minutes clinging onto the middle of the bridge. The gamekeeper parked his Land Rover overhead and got out to peer into the darkness. He eventually drove away and, once we were clear of the forest and farmhouse, laughed and joked the rest of the way home.
Another time, Scotty and I went into the forest with Taylor. It was late afternoon as we carefully crept into the woodland. After an hour or so, Taylor wanted to go home, but it was safer to leave at dusk. Taylor wasn’t having any of it and stormed off noisily through the trees. Scotty and I rolled our eyes. A few minutes later, we heard a shout.
“Hey!! I have your friend here. He’s told me your names. If you come out now, I won’t call the police. I want to talk to you!”
It was the gamekeeper. We’d never been caught before. Frozen for a moment, we considered moving deeper into the trees to melt away. But we didn’t want to get into trouble. We stood and went slowly downhill toward the gamekeeper. He explained that he’d been tracking us for about two years and he would let us go this time, so long as we stayed away from then on. We walked back in a subdued mood.