A Walk on Brownsea Island

From the moment that one steps away from Church Field, the clatter of the boat and the chatter of the other visitors falls into the background, and becomes a wallpaper on which is imprinted the bustle of Poole harbour, the castle, the NT welcome, the signage and the way markers and you simply emerge from it and leave it where it is.  The Church on the rise, the peacocks strutting on the browned grass, the shadow of heavy oaks and the dusty well-worn paths.  All of that becomes two-dimensional and static.  It’ll wait, for three hours and more, as the years slip away and the child in you sees possibilities in every hole and sparkle, oddly-formed branch or coloured stone. Eyes beyond even them draw you deeper into the mystery of this place; this isle of adventure; this place where no jet-ski should be heard, or jarring command - and no limit be set on the imagining.


Walking clockwise, and travelling westward, the path is soon amongst the trees; ancient pines and noble oaks; red squirrels scamper and bees hum and crickets set up a cracking racket.  The heat is rising from the baked ground and light is glinting through the straight trunks that draw your eye to the blue sea below and beyond.  It is dusty and stoney - just as it should be.  This is not an island for wet meadows and dripping moss; this is a place of burning possibility in a summer made for holidays and endless hours lost in wild escape and unworried happiness.


Don’t speak.  Just close your eyes and wonder.  That root is not a root, it is the carefully placed marker directing us through the thicket of pines that holds secrets in the deep recesses of their cracked and venerable bark.  This is a place alive with surprises that flutter or burst into view, but all the time it is not what is there, it is what it arouses, that holds the timeless amnesia, and makes for childhood dreams and visions of old men, that meet somewhere between a twirling seed caught in the sunlight and a stone bounced on a glittering sea.


How many boys have lifted that stone at camp, or girls climbed those inviting branches, lain across those camping fields or torn through bracken in the heat of chase.  Laughter hangs in the air, but is not there and childhood screams of fun ripple across the silent flowing seed-heads.  A scraped knee and banged head are somehow lost in the games and campfires and shouts of discovery; memories that seem to take root and grow, with the breath of the wind and the smell of the pines.


This is no place to mope, for, even under the dark hanging branches in the deeper shade, the poignancy of what is lost in adulthood refuels the imagination with hope, and counters evil thoughts with the indestructible; the loving; the joyful; the need to know that goodness and compassion will, with love, patience, gentleness, long-suffering and hope, find their resting place in your heart and with them the source of all created things, the God of truth, mercy and peace; ever reforming and restoring in Christ, forsaken and risen, offering his life that all may share in what is forever new.


John Mann