The Animals of Aysgarth Falls: Adventure into Aysgarth, Part 2
Half an hour came around very quickly. In that time, Henry thought he should prepare for their journey, though he wasn’t altogether sure what he might need. He scurried back to his nest to find his bag. Henry was very fond of his bag. He made it himself by hanging a fallen conker shell on woven threads of silk, taken from an abandoned cobweb. He picked up some extra silk rope to take for the journey, just in case, and some fluffy dandelion petals, with their firm, pointy stems still intact.
‘That should do it’ he assured to himself, satisfied he was suitably prepared, but confident he’d left plenty of room in his bag to bring back his bounty.
Walter had now returned. He too had a satchel slung over his shoulder, but his was woven from long, thin blades of grass, and lined with clover leaves to patch up any gaps. It bulged with items. Henry was concerned Walter hadn’t thought this through, where was he going to fit all the food?!
‘Hop aboard Henry’ Walter called from his raft, as he clung to a reed stalk dug into the riverbed to prevent any further swaying with the current.
‘Walter, what have you got in that bag? I’m surprised the boat is still afloat with the load you’re carrying!’ Henry shouted as he hopped on the end of a fallen tree branch. The spindly off-shoot spiralled down to the rivers edge from its precarious position, wedged into the hedge near Henry’s nest. He slid down the helter-skelter branch, with the odd bump along the way, before flying off the end and landing with a thud on Walter’s raft. Water splashed around them.
‘Oh you know just some essentials...’ Walter dumped the contents of his bag on the raft floor; there was an antique looking compass in a mahogany case, part of an old map with torn edges and strange symbols dotted all over. Henry was puzzled by the shape of a black cross and further along the map, a little pink triangle. His attention was soon drawn towards a golden chain which had been tied to a great big pebble. Henry recalled when Walter discovered the gleaming chain on the floor one day, near the gate where the humans pass. He was most pleased with his discovery.
Walter shuffled around with the compass now in one hand, and the map in the other. He squinted through one eye at the compass, whilst swivelling the map upside down and back upright again, repeatedly.
‘You see Henry’ he said, pulling his friend towards him to share the details of his plan.
‘Here is where we are right now, and here is our destination’ Walter illustrated, his pointy fingers dotting about the map with rapid pace.
‘So, we need to travel down the rushing river, over the bumpy bridge, along the roaring road, beyond the big tower which rings on the hour, and voila! We have reached our destination’. He made it sound so simple.
‘Right you are Walter’. Henry always followed Walter’s lead; he always seemed to know so much, about so many things. He trusted Walter completely.
Walter leapt to the stern of the raft, pulled the long reed out of the riverbed and nodded at Henry to untie the vessel from the riverbank. With that, they were off, floating briskly downstream. A light breeze brushed through their whiskers as they went, the scent carried through the air, subtly changing as they drifted further away from the familiar surroundings of their riverbank.
The crashing of the falls in the distance grew louder as the current picked up and the two friends floated further and further downstream. Along the way, they saw several unfamiliar sights. They first came across a Heron, stood perfectly still at the side of the water, patiently waiting for his next catch. Further along the river, they passed a fat, bloated frog, with mottled green speckles, ‘ribbeting’ in satisfaction on his lily pad, full from a lunch of bluebottles and midges. Every now and then, a bubble would ‘pop’ on the surface of the river where the little roach fish would gulp down an insect caught unawares as it skated on the water.
Soon enough, the bumpy bridge emerged on the horizon like a silhouetted rainbow rising from the ground.
‘Now’ Walter said with purpose ‘when we get to the bridge, Henry, we’re going to have to hop off on the left, and cross over the top, as the current is too fast down the right hand side of the river, we’ll not be able to stop our vessel.’
‘Right you are, Walter’ Henry nodded, keen to show he was keeping up with the plan.
‘When I say, I need you to push this reed into the river bed to slow the raft. Then I’ll lob this pebble onto the riverbank’ he instructed handing over the reed, as he tied the loose end of the golden chain to the front of the raft.
Henry nodded again, readying himself to successfully complete his very important task.
‘Readddyyy’ Walter prompted, ‘3, 2, 1, NOW!’ With that, Henry dug the reed into the riverbed with all his might. It dragged along the sludgy bottom, slowing the raft almost to a halt until the bridge was all but upon them. With a great heave, Walter lobbed the pebble onto the riverbank, it sank heavily into the mud as it landed, and with a sudden jolt, the raft stopped moving.
‘This way!’ Walter didn’t pause for breath. Before he knew it, Henry was precariously following him from the raft along the golden chain, one foot in front of the other, like a circus mouse balancing on a tightrope, though somewhat less gracefully.
Both back on dry land, the friends shared a brief moment of triumph, high fiving each other in their victory of completing the first stage of their adventure. Henry was starting to feel a little tired after his brief exertion, but Walter was keen to keep going.
‘Not far to go now Henry, keep up, we don’t want to miss out on the good stuff!’
They scuttled up the wall of the bridge, dragging their bags behind them. At the very top, they could see for miles and miles over the rolling green fields, dotted with white, fluffy ewes peacefully grazing with their lambs. Henry had never ventured this far from his nest before. There was a pungent smell drifting through the air. It tingled in his nose.
‘Ugh, what’s that smell?’
‘Manure’ Walter replied matter of factly. ‘Farmer Grimble spreads it all over his fields, it makes the crops grow better’.
Henry wasn’t altogether sure what manure was, but he was certain that it wasn’t something he fancied having anywhere near his berries and seeds.
They scampered over the wall of the bumpy bridge, hopping off at the other side onto a hard, gravelly bit of pavement, which dug into the pads of Henry’s paws. He winced, shuffling from left to right, trying not to let Walter notice his discomfort, who seemed perfectly fine underfoot.
‘Here we are’ Walter proclaimed, pointing at a little squiggle labelled ‘A684’ on his map. What a curious name, Henry thought. He presumed the cryptic codes were used to prevent every mouse and his dog from finding their way to the market, to feast on all the best fruits.
‘This road isn’t very ‘roaring’ at all, we’ve not seen a single car all morning’ Henry pondered as they marched up the hill, one behind the other.
‘Are you sure about that?’ Walter challenged. Before Henry had chance to respond, a low distant rumble had instantly become a thundering roar, as an almighty red truck sped past them, whooshing a whirlwind of dirt up in the air, covering Henry and Walter in a fine, dusty layer.
‘What was that!?’ Henry spluttered.
‘Don’t you mean who was that? Because that was Farmer Grimble. On his way to the village, by the looks of things.’
‘How can you tell’ enquired Henry curiously.
‘Because, Henry’ Walter enjoyed knowing lots of things about lots of things.
‘Farmer Grimble has a big red truck, and in the big red truck, he always carries his pitchfork. Didn’t you see it bumping around in the back?’
‘Can’t say I did’ Henry responded, thinking he was altogether too preoccupied at that moment by the sheer terror induced by the deafening noise that had descended upon them without warning.
The roaring road wound up a steep hill, at the very top of which stood a tall L shaped building. Having recovered from the noisy interruption to their journey, they continued onwards and upwards. Henry was panting quite heavily now as they neared the summit, while Walter seemed to tackle the challenge with ease. To Henry, it felt like they had climbed the highest mountain in England. As he struggled along, a little bead of sweat feel down his forehead, and hung from the end of his pink nose, before dripping onto the concrete floor.
‘Walter, do you mind if we rest for a minute, just a minute, I’m awfully tired’.
‘Oh, alright’ Walter tried to hide his frustration. He could see his Henry’s legs weren’t as long as his, but he was keen to get to the village before all the best bits had gone.
The two friends rested at the top of the hill. They found a seat on a piece of stone that had fallen loose from a wall which stood separating the path from the field beyond. Henry surveyed his surroundings. A few steps further up the road stood the huge L shaped building. They were very close to it now. It was a very imposing building of two halves, which cast a long dark shadow out onto the road. The bottom part of the building was long and rectangular, and ran along the ground. It had great big windows; Henry counted five or six in a row, and a big wooden door at the very end. The other half of the building was a tall, grey tower, at the very top of which stood a shining clock face. Above the clock, was an opening in the brickwork, exposing a giant golden bell that hung glinting in the sun.
‘Is that the big tower which rings every hour?’ Henry asked, very proud that he’d pieced part of the journey together for himself.
Walter inspected his map and compass, frowning in confusion. He didn’t have time to answer before a, long, bellowing ‘gong’ rang the the air, vibrating in through their ears and out through their toes. The noise finally stopped, allowing a brief moment of relief in the silence, before chiming again. It rang out nine times, Henry counted.
Walter nodded ‘Indeed it is, Henry! At the other side of that building, lies the village!’
Henry was encouraged by how far they’d come and how close the village finally was. His feet were sore and his shoulder ached from carrying his bag of useful items.
‘Right, best get cracking then’ Henry hopped to his feet, to Walters surprise, and the pair hurried along, beyond the big grey tower which rings on the hour, and around the corner to the entrance of Aysgarth village.