© Copyright 2023 by Kristen Britt
Kenilworth Castle--Graphic courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I arrived in Kenilworth in the middle of August. It was hot and I had been traveling for months already. Four days earlier, I had been biking around The Hague and struggling with the Dutch language, but arriving back in England felt calming. My return to London had been nice and when I finally got off the train in this market town I breathed in deeply. After nearly a month in cities, I was ready to be back in the countryside.
Orwell was blond with a sturdy build and a sweet disposition. He loved walking even more than I did. His favorite walks were rambler paths through fields. I grew up on a farm and have always been inspired walking around in fields and forests. I knew before we even met that we would enjoy our time together. Orwell was a golden retriever and I was his pet sitter and we were going to walk.
My stay at Orwellís house coincided with the first anniversary of the loss of my canine companion of nearly 13 years, but the familiarity of England and the slow pace of Kenilworth (plus plenty of access to my favorite coping mechanism - walking) gave me some hope that I would make it through this peak of sadness.
I planned for a slow week without much sightseeing. There were some places of note nearby but there was also industrial action that meant that there was little to no train service most of my time in the area. I limited myself to checking out a couple of parks and cafes and visiting Kenilworth Castle. Mainly, I expected to focus on writing and Orwell.
It felt like a return to childhood to me. I was able to wander by myself and explore and (depending on the weather) still be in sight of a landmark. Growing up, it was my house or my grandmotherís house and in Kenilworth it was the castle. Unless youíre in the middle of town, then I suggest looking for the clock tower or Abbey Fields.
Orwellís favorite walks were through fields. We saw late summer crop remnants, herds of cows and flocks of sheep. We saw the castle in the distance. We saw golden light and golden fields. We saw the fields in the mornings and evenings. And, occasionally, we also saw other dogs and people. When I saw those people, I usually gave them a smile or wave or nod of the head and continued across the field, following the paths of all the unseen ramblers before us.
I love the feeling
of crossing a field. When the crops are freshly cut, youíll
have crickets and grasshoppers jump across your path. Birds will fly
above you and cast little shadows or make their noises. They remind
you that you arenít alone. That humans aren't the only living
things making their way across and and around and through the world.
As I walked with my newest best friend, that understanding came
After a couple of days with Orwell, we were out on one of our rambles in the fields and passed a man. He said hello and asked me a question. I canít remember that first question, but I know I stopped to answer. I was feeling connected to the land and to Orwell we were at my favorite part of one of Orwellís regular walking routes where you begin walking uphill and as you reach the top of the hill you can turn around and see Kenilworth Castle. Itís huge and stunning and the view is impeccable. I was in a good mood and was in no hurry.
As I answered his question, probably something about the path behind me and ahead of him, he noticed my accent. He asked me where I was from and I told him a little of my story and he told me he was just visiting the area even though he was from England. He said his name was Patrick and I introduced myself and Orwell. I told him I had lived in England for a few years when I was very small. Patrick told me his parents were from Ireland. He asked me how I was able to travel like I was and when I mentioned that I was an English tutor he told me about his daughter who loves to travel and teaches English in Spain. When I said I was a writer, he said he believed from our chat that I was a good one. We rambled on for who knows how long.
The sun was beginning to set and Orwell and I still had a ways to go so I said goodbye and wished him well and gave one last glance over my shoulder to the golden light around the castle. I knew immediately that I would remember meeting Patrick for a long time.
I've always had an active imagination and when spending time alone I have always found myself making mental connections. Connections between any- and everything. My history connects to the history of the place Iím in. A view reminds me of a similar view in a different location. A walk reminds me of a song. A new person reminds me not to forget myself.
Making connections has always been my way of understanding the world. I donít remember things that I canít connect to. My memory can only hold information if it is related in some way (no matter how lightly or distantly) to something else. This way of being has helped me throughout my life.
The fields in Kenilworth reminded me of my childhood, but even better because you can cross much of the UK by walking on paths created by and for ramblers. This freedom doesnít exist in the US. Walking and making connections are two of my favorite things in the entire world and to be able to do both simultaneously brings me joy, even in my hardest times.
time in Kenilworth was beautiful and enlivening. I had time to walk
and contemplate. Time to imagine the future. And I had the
companionship of a pet who would sit with me while I sat with my
feelings. This moment of fields and castles has become a pivotal
moment for me. Orwell led me to the moment where I met Patrick in a
field in Kenilworth. And that meeting led me to add some walking
experiences to my dream travel list.
Pet sitting had taken me to yet another place I never knew existed. I met beings that I will probably never see again. Orwell and Patrick changed my life and they will probably never know. My hope is that we all continue to ramble for as long as we can.