Day 25 - Thursday
Fantastic to wake up to the sun peeking out from massive cumulus clouds! Today the weather is going to be kind I am sure - after all it cannot keep raining can it? I can do a good clean out of the bothy, which after a few days of being pretty much inside for most of the time, was resembling a Chinese laundry, with clothes hanging up everywhere trying valiantly to get dry.
A word about the dawn chorus here.
Surrounded as I am with trees covering this little valley in ancient woods, there are a plethora of birds. I also think that with the proximity to the sea on this western side of the English coastline, there are more different varieties of the feathered kind inhabiting the trees and hedgerows.
I have counted upwards of 30 different varieties and they all have their own distinctive call and song. The chorus starts early, just after 4am as the very first vestiges of light appear on the eastern horizon. It usually starts with the crows flying from their roosts at the tops of the trees across the valley. They are noisy birds and probably 'kick start' all the others. Robins and blackbirds start to get in on the act, and as they are lower down and much closer to the bothy, they tend to get my attention. Soon they are joined by the cooing of the numerous pigeons and the rasping cackle of the jay, by 4.30am we are in full swing. The jay (I think there is only one in this part of the wood) often lands of the bothy roof, hopping along the top cackling away. Outside at ground level, 'no tail' adds to the orchestra of sound, so by 5am we are in full swing and no chance of dozing back to sleep! The buzzards join in as they leave their nests for an early morning glide around the heavens looking for breakfast below. The cacophony of sound first thing is a thing of beauty, and can only really be appreciated away from built up areas.
Day 26 - Friday
I woke up to clear blue skies as the sun makes its way up over the hill behind me, stretching its long subliminal ray's of warmth across to the other side of the valley. I know it will be a beautiful day when, by 5.30am the first ray's illuminate the tops of the old oaks standing proud on the far side.
After a quick breakfast, I get my shorts on and wander down to the beach. Before dropping down the last 200 metres or so to the sea, you come across the south west coastal path which bisects the beach path at a small bridge where another old, building (being renovated) stands. I wanted to first have a look for the 'elusive' Peppercombe castle, which although marked on the map, I have yet to find evidence of. The trees and undergrowth at the top of the path and along this stretch are thick and guard its secret location. And a secret it remains, because despite looking in the obvious (and less obvious) places I could nothing in the shapes of old walls, sunken tracks or obvious viewing points. It was a little disappointing but I will go back again to search on another good day.
Further along the track are pre-ponderous amounts of bluebells. Only in Herefordshire were we once lived have I seen so many adorning another ancient wood called Athlestone. But here, the sight was incredible. The loveliness of the bluebell is not so much as an individual flower, although indeed they are very pretty specimens with the 'bell' of the flower hanging downwards supporting by its slender stem. For me, the beauty are in its numbers. Along this track, either side there are thousands of them growing, a massive and overwhelming splash of colour - a sea of blue among the greys, browns and greens of the wood floor.
As it was still early, there was little chance that I would encounter any walkers, so I found a small glade to one side and tip toed through the bluebells and found a spot highlighted by a sun beam breaking through the canopy above. Here, I just lay down on this wonderful carpet of blue and just closed my eyes. It can only be described as magical. The smell of the bluebells covered me and the warmth of the early sun bathed me, and I imagined fairies dancing to their hearts delight! I spent perhaps an hour or so there, knowing that this type of experience only occurs once a year, as soon, the bluebell will retire and fade until spring next year.
I returned along the track and went to the sea to collect driftwood for my fire tonight. The beach was deserted and the tide was on its way out, the water to return in 10 hours or so.
As I turn my phone on to send my 'x' to Buffy, an alert comes up reminding me it was May 19th and the anniversary of Adrian's passing. It was strange, that over the past few days, I had been thinking of Avebury and its enormous majestic stone circle, and obviously with that connection came Adrian. A year ago, he passed and I cannot believe that amount of time has passed already. Shortly after his funeral ceremony at Avebury, I had gone off for my first time of solitude onto Dartmoor. Whilst there, I am convinced that his spirit was close to me, even to the extent that I believed I had a conversation with him whilst sat in the Grey Wethers stone circle. Back at the bothy, I lit a candle outside which promptly went out, so I lit my fire instead - partly to cook food on and partly to have flame/light whilst in mediation sending love and peace to his spirit, but also to Helen his partner and Gracie his daughter. It was a poignant evening...
Day 27 - Saturday
The rain has returned! That's put a dent in my ambition to wash some clothes and cook outside. By careful use, my little gas canister is still running and long may that last as I restrict myself to a morning cuppa and a mid morning cup of coffee. I am hoping to be able to set off on my walk home with the last canister still yet to be used. That way, I can pretty much guarantee that I will at least have hot drinks. I estimate that the journey home will be around 150-170 miles (it's around 100 miles by car), so I will need to average 20+ miles a day. Normally I would have considered that very 'doable', but with my overall pace now having slowed down and the fact I will be carrying a large pack, it will be a good challenge.
Despite the rain, I donned my wet proofs and went 'walkabout' up into the woods opposite me. After an initial steepish climb, the wood opens out a little with a wide variety of mature trees. A mixture of oaks, ash, beech and lime trees adorn the hillside, all of which are pretty big and old. I found a quiet spot at the top and sat down at the base of, clearly, an ancient oak. It was a wonderful feeling sat with my back against such a mighty tree with the knowledge that hundreds of years ago, it started life as a tiny acorn. The trees have an energy about them which is noble, steadfast and gracious. One could almost feel the sap running through to all the branches above me, given to the tree by Mother Earth and, of the light of the sun.
Sitting there reminded me of the film Avatar, where one massive tree was the home, both physically and spiritually to an entire community. It was their sacred home. They say in parts of the U.K. there are very old yew trees. Some over a thousand years old and more - often found in churches, where once gathered the ancient Britons and Druids to connect to a sacred being, a sacred space. Most old Christian churches occupy the site of such pagan gathering sites, unashamedly taking over the space in order to convert the 'savage pagans' as the Romans called the Druids to Christianity. And yet, it was our forefathers connection to the world in nature around them, that allowed such a deep connection to nature and our earth, that many of us lost eons ago.
Sitting there surrounded by huge trees allowed me to connect to all that was around me so much easier than normal. A squirrel dashing around the beech trees, the blackbirds swooping through the glades, the butterflies dancing with abandon over the wild orchid looking flowers, all took on a slow motion passage as I watched with heightened awareness of what was around me.
My eyes started to close and I drifted off. I knew I had been asleep there on the forest floor, because firstly the sun was beaming through the trees, and secondly my stomach groaned complaining it was hungry! I had no watch on me but knew I had left the bothy around 10am, and when I got back it was 4.30pm, and I had only walked a quarter of a mile away! I must have been asleep on that wooded hillside for upwards of 4 hours! Amazing.
The weather held enough for me to have a hot supper over the fire of spicy butter beans with vegetables. Even though I had slept during the day, I was tucked up and sleeping by 8pm!
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