ROSEMARY and I decide to take a look around a large green area in Emmer Green which is within walking distance of the house.

Reading Golf Club closed its doors after 110 years (and merged with Caversham Heath) which is a real shame for me as the course holds many treasured memories.

The future of the derelict land and Kidmore End Road clubhouse is at stake.

As it stands, a revised proposal has been submitted by Fairfax and the club to build 223 units, up from 257 initially, on 33 acres reserved at just 90 by Reading Borough Council in its local plan.

A much larger area of ​​land that makes up the once glorious course can be found in south Oxfordshire.

A group called Keep Emmer Green with (to date) 1,600 members oppose the proposed development and presented an alternative plan for the future use of the land, which I found most interesting (https: // keepemmergreen. com).

I want to travel the course to remember the many beautiful days I spent there as a young man with my scratch golfer father, and because I want Rosemary to see this beautiful countryside on our doorstep before its likely development.

I used to play golf but found it boring. As a boy, I was much more interested in finding wildlife, from woodpeckers and yellow hammers to slugs and snails.

I visited the course for the last time
about 18 years ago to conduct (courtesy Golf Club) a botanical study for the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust.

I focused on the north end of Tanners Lane and made some surprising discoveries.

Today we begin to explore between the old first hole and the 18th, a vast expanse of flat, extremely wet land where houses can be built.

The water table is generally high in Emmer Green, but here, surprisingly.

In fact, a winterbourne cuts through the north side of the upper holes with a deep, rugged dip that would present a challenge to builders.

How the course has changed. The old fairways, once pristine, are deteriorating and the old bunkers are overgrown, with grasses that grow tall.

However, the majority of the trees appear to be in good condition, obviously much bigger than I remembered.

They are also varied, from conifers to native deciduous species.

One in particular is a very old solid oak next to the last hole. I guess it’s some 600 years old. I’m concerned about damage to its extensive root system if construction continues.

Lots of people walk their dogs here. I meet an old fisherman friend from a long time ago with his companion who is heading towards Rosemary.

We walk towards the oddly named cucumber wood between the 4th and 17th holes.

The wood is mainly lined with beech, oak, hazel, ash, cherry and holly and is home to many species of birds, including great and green woodpeckers, goldfinches, greenfinches, robins and various tits.

Somewhere not far away, magpies, crows and jackdaws engage in corvid quarrels.

It is a small and compact but charming wood.

In a hidden section, the tee from the old 5th hole is still prominent.

The strip of land veers off to the right into a narrow valley. From this vantage point, it’s easy to make out a well-traveled old lane in a sheltered valley named Highdown Bottom. I imagine this is an old trail.

Stony and fragrant, I used to walk around here even before I was a teenager and in high school. There was a mystery about the place with the smell of horse dung, the chirping of tree sparrows and the now rare reed sounds of bullfinches.

I was fascinated to discover bird nests, so wonderfully constructed from cobwebs, grasses, fine twigs and feathers that contained clutches of jewel-like eggs.

It’s such a shame that I didn’t have a camera at the time but I will never forget what I saw.

The wood has changed, however, and not for the better.

Rubble of bricks and concrete slabs litter the ground. Some people started a fire and managed to burn three trees, so they are unrecoverable. Stupid vandals.

Apart from this sad spectacle, a large part of the old course is in good condition.

Coming down from the sloping 5th hole, which is quite steep, we end up at Highdown Bottom.

Rosemary is seduced by the beauty of the place.

We’re proceeding east on what used to be the 14th hole – 501 yards, a par five. It’s wide and rough with a good mix of trees on a slope to the left, cucumber wood to the right. I notice a dead beech that looks like a diplodocus.

We reach what was green near a hollow in Kidmore End Road which is just above a few trees, then walked up a leafy alley along 16th. I never took this route, which was presumably used by greenkeepers.

There are beautiful old oak trees here as well as hazelnuts, beeches, spindles, hawthorns, holly and field maples with the speckled light of the sun illuminating the last golden and yellow leaves.

Emerging from soggy heights, we stroll along the 17th hole to meet the 18th again.

Some machines have been installed to perhaps collect information on the water table. Nearby, a dead wood pigeon sits face up with its feet rolled up.

Rabbits are evident, having dug holes in the fairways, where basil thyme (Clinopodium acinos) is found.

Back home later, I call my friend John Larrad, who was once the club pro and now lives in Austria (currently in lockdown), to tell him what we saw.

When he joined Reading at the age of 23, he was Britain’s youngest professional. He spent 22 years there and was notably the tutor of Reading golfer Michael King, who previously played in the Ryder Cup.

John seems the most disturbed by my description. He loved the club and doesn’t want his memories destroyed so he won’t be coming back.

Sitting outside in the dark before supper, I hear an animal struggling through fallen maple leaves just above the fence in our neighbor’s back garden.

He’s a badger, bold as brass, and unmistakable by my bright torchlight just a few yards away. Glad to see Brock again after so long.

Rosemary believes he lives in a corner at the end of our large garden. He looks as fit as a violin.

It’s starting to snow and I catch a snowflake in my hand. As it melts in my palm, I study the intricate and unique structure and marvel at the beauty of it all.

Above, deep clouds rush over an almost black starry sky with a rising moon. I love it.

[email protected]