While some of my country folk were marching up and down the streets of our cities and towns, we chose to head for the soft paths of the country park around the corner. It was warm and cloudy so I packed a bag full of light rain coats but we never needed them. Pippi came too, she adores the park with it's cornucopia of tantalising scents and trails. Duncan has been happy to walk when we go out now and doesn't want to sit in the buggy. Neither has he asked me to carry him for ages, thankfully for though he's fairly light and knows exactly how to snuggle his centre of gravity in to make the job of holding him easier, I prefer not to.
On the way, we stopped off for a few minutes in the smaller hilly grove opposite the main park. Duncan has decided that the narrow paths through the trees are train tracks and the hill is "Gordon's hill." He raced up it, pretending to be an engine, went all the way to a fork on the path (the "branch line") then ran back down the hill 3 times before we continued on our way.
As we walked the main road into the park, we were passed by dozens of cars heading for the car park by the beach. We decided to avoid that section and stick to the prettier and more secluded forest walk. Duncan was about 40m ahead of the rest of us. We have been walking out together often recently and I have seen him develop a much greater awareness of traffic and how to check the road before crossing. It's not something he was able to learn from me breaking it all into little steps, he just had to learn for himself with me by his side asking him "is it safe to cross?" or some such and then shutting up and watching him make the judgement. I'd still not let him be ahead of me by much on a busy road or cross the street in town. But that too will come.
So I was unconcerned even though he went out of sight for a few seconds as he turned a corner and as we came to where the paths diverged, a woman with her children was hovering, obviously checking that the child who's just passed her alone was being accompanied. She pointed to the path he'd taken and I thanked her and said, "was he looking a bit lost and lonely?" Her son answered, "he was saying, "I'm in trouble!"" I explained quickly that he was probably reciting lines from Thomas the Tank, that he's autistic and likes to tell himself stories as he goes.
As we continued, Lady, whom I think loves the forest more than any of us, climbed leaf cluttered banks and examined holes and in behind loose bark, with an excited little dog following her. Duncan was a bit concerned about Pippi running away when she was off lead, but he managed to tolerate it. Thomas is least fond of the forest, preferring the thrills of the playground. I told him that he can do all the balancing and climbing he wants in the forest instead. He wasn't convinced. But he was happy enough to walk and talk about the big questions of life, as he does.
We put the lead back on the dog for Duncan to hold. It helped keep him closer to us as there were too many choices of path to take and we didn't want to loose him. He enjoyed running beside the burn (stream) with her. We rested by the waterfall for a while then headed out to the village and the shop where the children each chose a treat. Duncan also requested milk and a packet of porridge oats. Then to home, where the chicken casserole Gordon had prepared earlier was just ready.