Archives for the month of: February, 2013

We don’t have direct sunlight in winter, but on clear days we can see it on the hill tops east and west of the valley, enticing us to climb them. In February the sun is just high enough to graze the larches that fringe the long south ridge but it will be another month before it spills into the caravan to pour light in the blue glass jug.

CoppicingWe coppiced the ditch hedge to let in more light, and the woody tangle by the stream. Wild garlic is just up and the mud down there is always wet and marshy deep. There is moss on the rocks and even the youngest whippy hazel rods are thick and dripping in it, like sloths.

There’s blackthorn to burn but I make neat piles of the hazel, dividing it into stakes and weavers and kindling brash. The activity has shaken frosty hips to the ground from the wild thicket rose and agitated the robins. The light is grainy dusk when I’m done, but looking up to the valley head I see the hill glowing wildly, daubed in fiery orange.

On the bus we met a man in a silver button blazer who told us tales of Whixhall Moss. He’d been a firefighter in the 60s and 70s and the moss was always going up – they used to blame it on the steam trains but flames still rip whistled through when the line shut down. They’d fight them long hours with just a cup of tea, catching fleeing grass snakes to hide in the boss’s hat. Some days they’d rehydrate in the Waggoners, with a pint or two or three.

lakesThe Moss is requenching now, flooding again, and bog life is returning. A vast smoke blue expanse of wildness, with grasses and sedge and alder carr edges and leaky squidge paths among peat cutting scars. It is waterland now, but The Waggoners is a burned out shell. I passed it before the moss cottages on the flat road into the Fenns. ‘Insurance’ said an old man on the tow path.

The tow path leads to the meres, past waterfields of geese, swarms of long tailed tits, and rising stubble fields murderous in crows. A swan takes to the air with a boldness of beats. Over the meres the air is silver, raindrops brighten the twigs, mist dissolves the distant trees and mutes the honks of geese.

It is a water-mist day. Colours are saturated, seafront hills wet and vanishing into the sky. The tide is high and loud. Anglers by the pier dash between rods, casting lines into broth waves heaving and crashing at the walls then scouring back the roaring space-dust shingle.

ConstitutionI don’t want to watch the Hobbit, so I meet Chloe. She takes me on her walk to Constitution Hill across muddy fields and furtive wires into woods which feel as if they should be full of boys with dens and stones and lighters, but there are no tree swings. There is moss and early garlic, ivy ropes and a glory bank of snowdrops.

At the bay we separate – she returns through the darkly woods and I along the coast path enjoying the water-mist cheek salt kiss. Sunday light is fading so the red hill bleeds water-colour into the purple slate and a pair of eiders I think, fly swiftly overhead before turning expressly inland. All the way back, small flocks of starlings rush past me, I can hear their wing beats even over the waves and the wind, heading for the pier.