Thursday, 19 February 2015
A Downland Walk
For one of the first times this year, the sun shone with noticeable warmth, making it a pleasure to stretch, breath deeply and stroll grassy paths, and gaze upwards into the blue. I climbed high above the village onto the side of the downs, and higher, bisecting a line of thorn and ash and onto the bare open tops. My legs ached with the uphill pull, the chalky mud beneath my feet was slippery, held together by only a threadbare net of grass, but it felt good to be out.
The village houses huddled together around their square towered church, a plume of smoke drifted up from a distant bonfire; someone tidying the winter's damage from their garden. On the opposite hillside, pylons strode across the rolling field.
But it was the birds that caught my eye.
From where I stood near the hill top I was close to the birds as they rose on the updraft of wind that pushed up the hillside, soaring out over the blue ceiling of the valley.
The buzzards were first, circling, stacked one above the other like planes waiting to land.
As the morning warmed further, a red kite joined them, russet tail ever twisting, wings shifting to manoeuvre on the invisible wind.
Through a kissing gate and along the side of the hill, the path narrows, splits and rejoined, trodden more often by the sheep that watch my progress with wary eyes. The short turf is wiry and coarse, but I know that later in the year it will be studded with violets and orchids.
An ancient sound calls for my attention, and I pause and turn to watch a pair of raven, heavy set with wedge shaped tails, tumble from the blue sky and rise and pass and twist and fall, with an agility unexpected from broad black wings.
In the quiet after their passing, a lark leaps forth from the meadowland, climbing ever skywards and pouring sweet song from the heavens.
The skylark is not perturbed when pale clouds began to move in from the west, he continued to sing, so I knew the chill wind and shading clouds would not last long.
In the hedgerows, lambs-tail catkins dangled and together with the fluffy masses of old man's beard from the wild clematis, they matched the colours of the sky in it's soft greys and sunlight yellows.
It was time for me to turn back and take the path that leads down the field, through the line of thorn and ash.
I looked and gazed and took my fill of the view one last time, noting the red kite had been joined by another and my own heart echoed their calls as I found my feet back in the village.
I know when I next walk out on these hills, it will be Spring and the fields will echo with the bleating of lambs and dainty flowers will nod under the hedgerows that will be fresh with new leaf.