He followed the stream all the way through the forest that day, keeping away from any lanes or paths. Further in, there were other working farms which had survived the axe of the corporation. He dropped out of sight and was careful to circumvent the boundaries of the farms without being seen. Steve walked over wooded hills and around the former estate of the ultra Posheys who had owned it for generations. He crept forward. The grand hall was now an exclusive wedding venue. Steve spotted it from the tree line just as evening closed in. He decided to make his way back through the trees. Darkness soon took the land as the birds and insects fell quiet. The forest stilled as the last rays of sunlight disappeared beyond the canopy and the moon rose above. The forest at night was where he felt most comfortable. Steve sat down to let his eyes adjust to the low light. An owl hooted somewhere in the distance. Steve clasped his hands together and hooted back for old time’s sake.
He made it back to the bridge and into the darkened trees on the other side. He walked slowly because, although he had a torch, he decided not to use it in the unlikely event anyone else was out there at night. Negotiating his way uphill and then down the slope on the far side, he clambered over the barbed wire fence at the edge of the forest and back into the fields. He wistfully glanced left as he passed where the old farmhouse used to stand. No light would shine from there again. The noise of running water made him look down as the moonlight glimmered on the stream. Some things would never change.
He walked over blemished meadows and through hedgerows. Up the final hill, he stopped by a sole oak tree just before the large industrial unit. The tree contrasted the looming shape of the industrial estate. Steve patted the defiant oak twice and took a deep breath. He turned and looked toward the forest. The darkened trees jagged into the deep blue night sky. He paused a moment longer and turned to walk the rest of the way home. That forest was more than just his old stomping ground. Much more. It was an important enclave of an almost untouched land stubbornly resisting urban expansion. The forest had to stand firm against the wood cutters and bulldozers. It just had to.
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