Stock (Photo M. Germana)

It seems hard to remember, as we sit indoors, while a seemingly unseasonal winter rain rattles against the window panes, but we did see the sun last week-end. It was an ephemeral moment, but also a glimmer of hope that, with the end of February well under way (even with the extra day!), and the flashes of daffodil yellow brightening up the end of winter, that the new season is approaching fast.

We took advantage of the good weather last Sunday and took a leap of faith. We decided to go on an unplanned drive, with no clear destination in mind. These days – perhaps as a result of living in London – everything tends to be pre-planned and micro-managed. Even going for a drink with friends requires complex logistics including route-checking, diary-clearing and baby-sitting arrangements. After checking a couple of websites to make sure we would be able to reach a destination and return in good time, we set off with a small amount of ’emergency rations’ and headed for the exotic woodlands of Essex.

'Sparkles in the Swamp' (Photo M. Germana)

I have to be honest, we did have a vague plan to return to the small village of Stock, a picturesque hamlet we passed through some years ago. Our two (simple) aims of the day were to get a decent Sunday lunch and some fresh air. I can safely say we achieved both… sometimes it is just pleasant to allow the simplicity of basic comforts rule, when ‘non-planning’ a trip. Sure, the emotions we may experience on a a five-day hike to Machu Picchu or a drive through the fairy-chimney-studded, enchanting landscape of Anatolia may leave a stronger impression on us. We may even feel that we belong to a larger community of like-minded travellers.

Fairy Chimneys, Anatolia (Photo M. Germana)

There is something unique about the unexpected factor of the spontaneous trip that may give us something different to ponder on… something to treasure even, until the next journey. Like the wonderful sound made by a flock of birds as they glided and landed, with incredible synchrony of movement, on the flat waters of a reservoir. From one of the quiet hides situated along the trail, we just happened to be watching them perform a formation dance for less than a minute, before the leaders decided it would be safe to swoop down for a swim and snack. It was a magnificent sight, perhaps more so because we were expecting nothing of this kind from our short hike through the woodland of the Hanningfield Reservoir, just a couple of miles outside Stock. All we were looking for, after all, was working up an appetite after our late Sunday breakfast!

The Bear Inn (Photo M. Germana)

When this was achieved, we drove back to Stock and had a tasty afternoon lunch at The Bear Inn, a cosy establishment serving some great locally sourced delicacies (I had sausages from Wicks Manor Farm), though, sadly, no local beer.

I would like my next spontaneous trip to involve a microbrewery… Let me know if you have any suggestions!