A tranquil woodland walk with traces of Eldar magic.
- Distance: 5 miles
- Difficulty: Easy
- Dangers: A lingering sense of melancholy
This sparsely populated corner of the Shire has its own quiet beauty, and has long been rumoured to be the haunt of wood-elves. It’s a land of old forests and rolling hills, perfect for walking, but you will not find this route in certain other guide books. To discover whether this is related to the elves’ famous intolerance of fools, you would need to ask Seredoc Sackville-Baggins…
Woodhall (1) is the base for those wishing to stay under a roof. You will find the hobbits there are welcoming if you mention my name.
Stroll out of Woodhall along the only track until it joins the Tuckborough to Stock road. Travel west for half a mile or so until you see a sign for the Ringbearer’s Way (2). We now join this famous route for a time as we walk along a bridleway through the oaks and elms of Woody End.
After a while a footpath veers uphill to an open area, wooded on three sides, but with a clear aspect to the east where Woodhall lies nestled below. On a good day you can enjoy views right across the Marish to the causeway bordering the Brandywine.
This peaceful spot is where Frodo met Gildor and a company of elves. Here too a black rider stood, just hours later, as it searched for the hobbits. That a creature of darkness could despoil a place of such beauty seems hard to fathom, yet this was Frodo’s fate: he uncovered the fragility of our Shire lives. This was not his fault, as some would have you believe. The danger was here all along, like a pike at the bottom of a stream. We just didn’t see it.
In fairness, we didn’t know to look.
The Ringbearer’s Way continues southeast, through Woody End and across the fields to the causeway bordering the river. It is eighteen miles or so, an uneventful stretch, perhaps for the completist only.
We leave the Way before the new wooden footbridge over the Stockbrook and follow a small path on the northern bank along the edge of the woods. This emerges once more at Woodhall where a peaceful night, hemmed in by trees and stars, awaits.
The stars have long played a hidden role in the history of Woodhall. When Menelvagor climbed above the eastern horizon, and Borgil shone with ruddy hue, the folk of Woodhall looked to the clearing on the hillside. Sometimes, if they were lucky, they would see the ethereal light of elven lanterns, and hear the clear high voices of the Eldar drifting through the cool night air.
I know this well, for Woodhall is where I lived with Isobel for many years, in a small over-ground cabin built from logs of pine. I was one of the lucky ones, in whose eyes the elf-light shone.
Now, when I look to the hillside, even on those special nights, I see only a dark and empty space.
The elves have gone.
Yours, Everard Took
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Text and Maps © Kai Greenwood 2021