Yesterday afternoon I was driving back home from Chichester when the car took over and lead me to the West Stoke car park. This wild places book has had a bewitching effect. Was it a case of many a true word spoken in jest in my entry yesterday? I really did not expect to find myself at Kingley Vale, one of the nominated ‘wild places’, as soon as a few hours after writing it.
Walking for a couple of hours from sunlight to dusk and beyond, there were plenty of rich natural navigation clues and I studied them briefly and took pictures that will appear in this blog over time, but yesterday was not really about navigating. Sometimes when studying anything with nature at its heart it feels important to leave the cerebral, academic hat at home and just wonder. My frost-rich walk yesterday was one of those times. The path led into the forest of ancient yew trees, many over 500 years old and some dating back 2000 years. There is a cliche that I will try to resist and fail, about saplings growing here as a famous young man went about his day in the Middle East.
The Vale filled with shrieks and yelps and the path emerged above a frozen pond that some young boys were attacking with heavy branches and logs. Climbing steeply the hills rolled down into a light mist that nearly obscured the shining spring tide of the harbour. The track curved back back on itself as it traced the high spine of the hills and the light pinks to the southwest reluctantly yielded to cold dark blues. A plaque on a boulder commemorated the naturalist Sir Arthur George Tansley and Venus shone brightly through the twigs of some bare branches.
It was dark as I passed through another dense tunnel of yew branches and when I emerged at a haunting wooden sculpture, pagan in appearance, the horizon had become crowded with Venus and the two-day-old sickle moon chasing Jupiter and a faint Mercury down to the horizon.
The yellow Capella was the first of the stars to announce itself and by the time I was back at the car it had been joined by hundreds of its friends.
There is a lyric in a song by Elbow:
‘One day like this a year’d see me right.’