There are a number of secret ways to get to Ilston village, and one of the most lovely is along a rarely trodden footpath from the north. Kittle Hill Lane crosses the South Gower Road at an uninspiring cross-roads, and continues downhill as a muddy track, skirting Moorlakes Wood. I don’t walk this path often, but on sunny days it can be enchanting.
I tread carefully, there are no footprints; I may be the first along here for days. Under damp woodland, twisted trees with branches covered in shining moss, are engulfed by great tangles of ivy and ferns growing from the moss; it feels eerie. The lane drops steeply to a stream, which points my way for a while. Little wind reaches here. Even though their pretty little white flowers have still to emerge, the air is full of the scent of garlic. Celandines decorate the edge of the lane and a clump of daffodils deep inside the wood could be the real thing. It’s hard to believe they were planted there, but they’re too far away to be sure. On either side of the now indistinct path, lonely fields hold a few cattle, but most are stock-free at this time of year. I need to climb over fallen branches, but it’s not too difficult to get through, and in summer the path can become impossible, when mats of bramble sometimes block the way.
Courthouse Wood is not yet green, just a few chestnut trees promise spring, which has been late arriving this year, but when the weather finally improves I’m expecting a spectacular show. I move on through avenues of bird song, passing huge undisturbed cobwebs that look as though they've been there for ever.
The decent into Ilston comes quickly, and I emerge at the rectory above the old church remembering Judge Rowe-Harding and summer garden parties in aid of the Wildlife Trust. The house remains in the family.