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Hidden paths, secret trails

Adventure doesn’t have to be saved for holidays. Kate Townshend set off walking in her local area and discovered that exploration is a state of mind

A little breathless from the walk, I stand on a wooded hillside, gazing down at a Roman mosaic floor and what remains of the villa that once surrounded it. There are no hordes of tourists and I’m not in Greece or Italy.

I’ve driven 20 minutes from my home town and wandered along a few miles of cool, green footpaths to reach this hidden marvel, housed within an unremarkable corrugated-iron shack. It’s a poorly kept local secret, mentioned by Bill Bryson in his book Notes From A Small Island, and I’ve wanted to see it for ages. And, since I’m the only walker on this particular day, it feels like a discovery for me alone… I’m the Christopher Columbus of Gloucestershire – and it’s thrilling!

The idea of something hidden and precious coexisting with everyday life; just waiting to be discovered is one I’ve always found exciting. As a child, The Secret Garden was one of my favourite books, a novel that beautifully evokes the joy in a moment of discovery – the way it makes impossible things feel possible. Children have a knack of viewing the world as one protracted exploration; stumbling from one wonder to the next with a spirit of constant awe.

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