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  • Day90

    Wyndcliff, Wye Valley

    January 22 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 3 °C

    Clear blue sky, low white sun
    Long ash tree shadows
    Translucent Green moss
    Robin visits, eyes me, departs
    Pre-spring bird song
    Feels like spring
    Budding cuckoo pint (that called to me from the Wheel that morning), by great beeches skirted with bright shining moss
    Two women think I'm sick when I kneel to photograph the cuckoo pint
    Walk off the path through wild yew tree woods
    Find wild boar droppings and tracks
    Walk through the iron age enclosure
    More evidence of boar
    Beautiful sunlight on electric green moss and beech trees
    Sit for lunch on favourite limestone rock
    A Buzzard floats majestically over the tree, speckled wings sunlit, looks down at me, then sails on calling out across the Wye river's rising tide
    Do my nature rituals with eyes open and breathing deeply through nose
    Photograph blue-green moss on rotting tree stump
    Large family of long-tailed blue tits pass over through the branches high above
    Head on through woods around enclosure
    Photograph yellow fungi on fallen tree
    Walk around and down towards the old Roman harbour
    See a mother roe deer and her smaller young
    Staff still and they run up towards me, stop to eye me, then sound spooks mother and they trot off
    I walk back through the woods along the deer trods
    I come across the mother roe deer and young again, and they run up and away into the woods
    I walk down to the banks of the Wye, which is swollen with heavy rains and tree trunks and plant material float down
    Walked back up along the deer trods
    Sky grows dark with rain clouds, giving the woods an onimous, mysterious character
    The path up is blocked by fallen trees
    I say to a man walking towards me on the path that 'the weather's coming in'
    It starts to rain, growing very heavy
    I enjoy the contrast of weathers since the sunny morning
    I leave my found hazel walking stick resting in a tree by the path
    It rains heavily as I travel back home over the Severn bridge
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  • Day65

    Soar Mill Cove

    December 28, 2020 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌧 5 °C

    Stormy start
    Walk down to Soar Mill Cove
    Met woman with dog - "what a corker", "yes, bit a looks like a shower is coming", "well, it's what happens"
    Cows block the path
    Wide views of the sea
    Flock of small birds over edge of cliffs
    Few people on the beach
    Tide out
    Robin greeting me in adjoining field
    Walk onto beach over babbling brook
    Explored the beach, caves at the back
    Cove in a great bowl of rock, high and jagged on either side
    Two great rocks on the beach
    Picked up a small stone with rock and spar
    Seagulls sailing above
    Seaweed on the sand
    Walked up other side and sat on outcrop looking back down the coast eating lunch
    Very cold wind
    Sea crashing on rocks below, white froth
    Carried on round rock outcrops past flowering gorse
    Walked up to high outcrop
    Surveyed the views up and down the coastline
    Sheltered behind high standing stone as a storm passed.
    Walked back down to Cove
    Decided to wait for the sun and was rewarded by a kestrel passing
    Sun arrived giving stunning views down coastline
    Cloudscapes over the sea
    Walked back down to beach with tide coming in.
    Man carries tree trunk driftwood
    Family fire
    High waves rolling in, with wind blowing water back off the tops of the waves, backlit by the sun
    Leave the beach and sea chaffinch on fence, which then flies into adjoining field.
    Walk back up to headland with more views back down the coast
    Blackbird flies out of gorse and over the cliff edge.
    Sun gets low on horizon, backlighting more cows
    Sun sets over sea as driving home and near full moon rises beautifully into blue sky..
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  • Day64

    Sharp Tor and Yar Tor, Dartmoor, Devon

    December 27, 2020 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 3 °C

    Storm night before
    Unexpectedly sunny
    Low white Sun creating long shadows
    Lively family in van in car park
    Beautiful walk down to valley with water snaking down like the Amazon River
    Crossing the waters by dead tree sculpture
    Climbing up the other side, with views of Sharp Tor
    Silhouettes of Hawthorns with Tor behind
    View from Tor with cold winds blowing
    Misty Holne Valley
    Cloudscapes with the Sun
    Lunch in the sunshine in the shelter of the Tor
    Just before a snowy squall from black clouds passes over
    Walk back down sunny windswept escarpment
    Meet van family with kids splashing across the river jubilantly in wellies
    Climb, puffing up the steep side
    Walk on up gentle slope to Yar Tor
    Wide views over surrounding moorland
    Can see Bonehill Rocks and associated Tors where I last walked shining in bright yellow sunlight.
    Friendly man says hello from below, and says I look prepared for the weather - his daughter isn't - but she bravely climbs the heights of a granite rock stack and stands calmly at the top.
    Place my hands on the granite and feel its deep healing for my lungs.
    Walk back down as the temperature drops dramatically with the sun.
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  • Day33

    Llancaut Nature Reserve, Wye Valley

    November 26, 2020 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 4 °C

    The white winter sun shone low above the rows of red tiled rooftops, a bright blazing point of stillness amid the busy rush-hour traffic of Bristol below. I squinted out the open window into the pale blue sky, with the morning frost dissolving into sun warmed mist, rising up from the roof tiles, and wafting into my bedroom, in swirling eddies of icy air. I took the decision to pack for a day out in the sun, and headed for Lancault Nature Reserve, nestling in the river cliffs of the lower Wye Valley, by a long abandoned medieval village, near the castle town of Chepstow

    I arrived at the small car park at the top of the high, vertiginous river cliffs of the Wye Valley, carved out spectacularly by the raging melt waters, that flooded out of the giant ice sheets at the end of the last ice age. As I walked down the leaf matted, muddy path, I peered out through the trees with their few remaining, clinging leaves, over a soft white sea of mist resting gently and ghostly over the river valley below. I descended into the cold embrace of this airy apparition slowly enveloping me. The surrounding, dark silhouetted trees became more and more indistinct, as if in a fading memory of a dream, going in and out of existence. The path descended steeply through dense woodland, then emerged out into a more open vista of the river valley, by a wooden gate and a dew soaked oak bench. A small ruined chapel slept quietly in the hollow below, its time-worn stone edges, lightly etched in the mist, with the river as insubstantial as spirit, glistening in the opaque sunshine beyond. Broken gravestones laid along the outside of the chapel's old stone walls, carved with the half visible memory of someone's beloved, now lost to time and neglect, but once, no doubt, a vibrant, hearty and living presence in the community. A Christian chapel is believed to have stood in this place since the fifth century AD, and successive generations worshipped here from the local village, abandoned after the ravages of the black death, which called out from deep time to our own modern plague spreading around the world. The chapel once contained a renowned lead font filled with iconic imagery, now preserved in Gloucester cathedral. The chapel was attended by parishioners up until the late 1800s, and had the posture, presence and atmosphere of an ancient, sacred place, perched over a great arc in the river Wye and over a great arc of ancestral history. I walked inside the now roofless chapel, where another intact, but greatly worn gravestone, dedicated to two souls departed at the end of the 1600s, lay facing up to the weathering sky. I felt the greeting presence of ancestral spirits all around me. I looked out through the high, narrow, stone window frame to the white sun shining its glittering path on the river, thinking of the generations that had lived, worshipped and died here. I cleaned the grit and stones strewn across the gravestone to honour the memory of those long buried, but still somehow here and present.

    I walked out and down to the riverside grasses, as the brown, glistening mud banks stretched down to the low tidal river, beautifully carved with complex water channels spreading outwards like networks of veins draining into the river's watery body. Further down the path, the grasses turned to thick, wet mud, and I took off my trail shoes to squelch, slip and slide barefoot in this cold, foot-soothing mud-bath. I eventually turned off the path and up to my destination on a small hillock which stands proud above the banks, overlooking a sharp U-bend in the river. The mist still lay thick in the valley here, so that the sun shone palely and I could only just make out the silhouetted skeleton branches of the trees on the far side of, what now seemed like, the mythological river Styx. A tawny owl hooted mournfully from the vertical, grey slabs of river cliff rising up behind me, to further fill the valley with an eery, deathly quality.

    I sat silently, in this darkly lit underworld, closing my eyes, connecting deeply with the natural elements surrounding me as the cold wind swept down the invisible valley dusting my brow with droplets of misty condensation. While my eyes were long closed in contemplation, a magic spell was weaving all about me. I opened my eyes to find the mist lifting in great, steaming convolutions, chased away down the valley by the gathering strength of the mid-morning sun, which now pierced the former gloom with linear spears of white light. The land of the dead where I had been wandering reflectively only moments before, had risen up in a resurrection of the living day. The mists retreated further down the valley where great river cliffs rose victoriously out of the dormant dark to become solid and manifest again. A small flock of seagulls shining white as newly washed linen, standing out starkly against the mud~brown of the river water below, flapped and interweaved their way up the newly emerged valley. They flew past me, then collectively reconsidered, and turned back to land on the shining banks of mud, to pick through the rich population of invertebrates living out their lives in their trillions below the surface.

    A commotion of crow caws then impressed upon my attention, and I looked around to see a large buzzard rise majestically out of the thick corridor of trees skirting the valley floor, chased by two scrabbling, squawking crows, protecting their own. The buzzard gained an effortless elevation and soared in a wide circle above my head, looking down upon me loftily, her long speckled wings fanning out, before drifting over the river cliff behind.

    One of the chasing crows, relaxing after the buzzard's departure, settled on the mud at a distance, surveying the wide river. I watched him for a while, feeling my way towards a connection with his inner being. I silently asked him to come and visit me if it was his will. At that very moment, he lifted into the air and flew over to a low grassy perch not far below me, and seemed to look at me curiously through eyes lit like shiny black polished stones of jet. In a misjudged attempt at kindness, I threw a small piece of apple that I was eating towards him, but my sudden move spooked him and he lifted back into the air to return to his former spot. I regretted my rash move, and the crow flew out across the river to land in the gnarly branches of a hawthorn tree which was growing brazenly amidst a thin stand of other hawthorns precariously stretched along a large muddy spur of the river bank.

    The white, diffuse sun, traced a low passage across the winter sky, casting deep shadows in the jagged river-cliff rocks, where peregrines occasionally screeched like banshees unseen. Long, thin, shadows of the river bank trees stretched out across the silky chocolate river water, which was now rising inexorably with the Severn estuary tide, and providing an almost perfect mirrored reflection of the cliffs and trees above. A large fish leapt out of the depths further upstream, but I looked over just after she had returned to her watery element with a resounding splash that echoed up the valley. The surface waters rippled and sparkled in the late afternoon sun. A large bumble bee hummed up past me, and a small green spider made himself at home on the sleeve of my waterproof jacket. I gently blew him off for his own protection, but he held on with an extended silken thread, to wind his way up to return to my sleeve, persistence personified. I looked up to find that a heron had perched herself, preening, on a horizontal branch of one of the hawthorn trees on the opposite bank, warming and drying herself in the descending, waning, sunlight, after a long day’s fishing.

    Time flowed on languidly with the river flowing gently backwards with the rising tide, white bubbles curling inwards in natural ‘paisley’ patterns forming and then unravelling, in the brown surface sheen, revealing the hidden pull of deep undercurrents. The sun began to fall behind the thick woodland layers of the leafless trees’ bare canopies, on the far side of the river. The tawny owl hooted behind me, giving notice of the dusk’s soporific, and dreamy approach. As I got up to leave, an older man, with a lyrical welsh accent approached in a friendly manner, and we exchanged a few polite words, before I left him to take in the wonderful view that I had been gifted alone all the day. As I made my way back up the steep path, I encountered a herd of black sheep feeding lustily on the thick grasses near the old chapel, their thick woollen coats catching the last of the evening rays of sun, which illuminated the whole area in an orange, ethereal, almost unearthly glow. The sheep almost took flight at my approach, but we sniffed a greeting to each other, and they relaxed to return to their chewing of the grasses, with a rhythmic crunching and wrenching sound. I continued climbing the steep path, winding its way back up the high river cliffs, past elaborately coloured fungi and mosses on a fallen tree, all glowing vividly in the evening light. I took one last look back across the dimming valley, before passing two old stone lime kilns, and banks of Yew trees, with roots flowing over limestone rocks still glowing in the last shafts of dwindling sunlight. Above the valley cliffs’ long curving, jagged rim, a large, pale blue waxing moon rose effulgently into a slowly darkening sky, joined closely by Mars twinkling reddish pink. After returning home, whiling away the evening hours, and preparing for sleep, I sent my thoughts back to the chapel at Lancaut, musing that the tawny owl would be abroad, hunting in the valley. I turned over to my own dreaming, night journey down the river Styx in the mist.

    Woke up to sun
    Mist on the Severn
    Above sea of mist at Lancaut car park
    Ancient chapel
    Feeling at graves
    Barefoot on muddy path
    Sitting in the mist
    Tawny owl calls
    Mist clears magically
    Small bright flock of seagulls
    Crow comes to visit but I scare him
    Peregrine screech
    Reflections on the river
    Buzzard flyover
    Bee visits
    Buzzard emerges from cliff
    Small spider
    Heron preaning in the tree
    Welsh man
    Black sheep
    Evening sunlight
    Waxing moon in pale blue sky
    Moon and Mars in night sky
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  • Day26

    Sand Point, Kewstoke, Somerset

    November 19, 2020 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C

    - Welcoming Robin in car park
    -Muddy entrance, bare feet
    - Cloudy with occasional sun
    - Slipping over rocks
    View out over mud flats to estuary, Steep Holme and Flat Holme
    - Cold wind
    - Rushing sound of the waves, soothing like a whisper
    - Oyster Catchers, crying - hoo, hoo, hoo, warble, and feeding in the mood
    - small flock of birds, dancing overhead
    - sky painted sunlight on mountainous clouds
    - sea cave, with snails behind
    - cold windy lunch
    - the sun appears low and white, from tumultuous clouds
    - crow flies by, and a pair of crows patrols the headland
    - Walk across the rocks in blazing winter sunshine and steeply climb up onto the headland of Sand Point
    - Epic cloudscape
    - All around views of the Severn Estuary in the sunshine
    - Oyster Catchers feeding in the mudflats
    - Strong cold winds, took shelter in a wild rock garden
    - laid dozing in the sunshine, out of the wind
    - walked back up the ridge, spectacular views
    - Rosehip
    - Storms crossing the North Devon coast lit by the sun
    - People not so friendly in the pandemic
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  • Day11

    Hembury Woods and Bonehill Rocks

    November 4, 2020 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 2 °C

    The lawn grass of my parents’ garden was crystal cut with myriad threads of fraying ice; the first frost of the year glistening in the early morning sunlight. A little wren appeared atop the wooden garden fence busying herself with finding food to keep her tiny inner fire burning a little longer. A robin landed in the hawthorn tree behind the fence, his breast glowing bright orange as an ember, singing his self-composed symphony like a tiny Mozart, throwing in virtuoso flourishes of chirps and clicks to delight his audience. Large flocks of pigeons flew high overhead, their white rumps reflecting the sunlight, their darker wing beats flickering in contrast, like an old black and white animation. The sky was a piercing, arching, cloudless, azure blue as I left my parents’ garden with its panoply of life, and drove to Hembury woods on the lower part of Dartmoor National Park’s wild, expansive, high moorland in the centre of Devon with rolling hills of grass and bracken topped by piles of weather rounded granite rocks known as tors, remnants of volcanic upwellings in ancient chambers of crystallising minerals.

    I arrived at the woodlands, put my wellies on as I wobbled and hung on to the back of the car for stability. My breath formed small clouds of mist, like a gently puffing steam engine, in the icy, early morning air. I walked down a rocky, rain-soaked trail, as the low autumn sun fired arrows of white light through the high reaching, beech trees, casting long, thin shadows across the layers of jumbled leaf litter. On the lower hanging branches, I peered up through the translucent leaves, revealing their skeleton structures, as the sunlight made x-ray like images through them. The leaf colours transitioned almost imperceptibly from pale greens, to yellows, and into auburns from the trunk out to the periphery of the trees. I arrived at the earthen banks of the deep flowing river, wine-dark, and swollen by recent rains. Long, thin, spiralling trails of white foam, swirled like a watery memory of its tumbling over granite rocks further upstream. The imposing beech and oak trees along the banks, grew up like a great palisade, creating a natural theatre in which the sunlit, hazy light, could dance and perform on the dark, mineral waters. I wandered slowly up the river bank, occasionally spinning around to take in the various tree-scapes towering up in their golden crowns high above me. A nimble, Greater Spotted woodpecker, hopped lithely up the trunk of a birch tree, flashing his white and red feathers, before disappearing instantly in an avian trick of the light. Upstream, the river narrowed and swelled over large, smoothed, granite boulders, in an early show of its winter strength, sweeping all before it. I put my ear against the rough, ridged bark of an old oak tree by the bank to try and hear the gurgle of gallons of sugary sap descending down through the great heartwood of his regal being into the deep, dark network of roots, safely stored away from the bitter winter storms that would be howling above. After some time carousing in the society of wind-whispering trees, I began to feel the drawing stony fingers of the tors, beckoning me to the higher realms of the moor, so I turned to leave the autumn splendour behind, and head for the green hills.

    I drove up narrow, winding, ‘eye of the needle’, high-hedged, lanes, squeezing past oncoming cars with an anxious wave of thank you from both parties as we edged past each other relieved to remain unscathed. Then the lane turned steeply upwards testing the straining valves of my car’s wheezing engine. I emerged, freed, like a new-born, out onto the bright white, fizzing, light of the open moorland, with wide expanses of tufted grasses and browning bracken, occasionally dotted with hardy, wind-sculpted hawthorn trees. Old stone walls marched along field boundaries, bringing hand-crafted constrictions, until they too retreated and gave way to the origin wilderness of an ancient landscape. The sense of openness and liberation felt in these moorlands, must have also enraptured the first Neolithic farmers, who settled here thousands of years ago, clearing woodlands, putting down their generational roots, fishing the rivers, and harvesting crops from the peaty, rocky soil. They would have shared the land then with wolves, bears, elk and lynx. Such is the timeless quality of this place, that I felt as if I could turn beyond a tor, to find a stone circled hut, hearth fire smoke still lifting through its timbered roof, animal skins drying on a wooden rack outside, and a young family shouting amiably to each other in some ancient incomprehensible tongue.

    I arrived at Bonehill Rocks, a tumble of giant granite boulders in the vale of Widecombe in the Moor. I found myself unconsciously singing the famous song of the local fair “all along, down along, out along lee”. I stood humbly below the jumble of rocks living up to their name, looking like the emerged backbone of some fossilised leviathan buried in a sea bed long ago, or a great dragon that once terrorised the local inhabitants before crashing to the earth and meeting his demise in a burning ball of fire. I climbed up through the rounded rocks, wondering at how the wind, rain, snow and ice had carved them into such outlandish shapes, as the Earth turned its endless circuits around the sun, leaving some boulders finely balanced on their edges, as if they might roll off the tor at any moment, to join their fallen brethren in the grass below. A small stream flowed by the rocks, and I had taken delight, in taking off my trail shoes to go barefoot in the icy waters of the stream, to then warm them on the soft, wet, sun-bathed and sheep-cropped grasses. This contrasted sharply with the still frosted grass in the shade of the giant rocks that I climbed up and over now, where the cold wind seemed to prick air-needles into my exposed toes. I felt the rough texture of the sharp quartz protrusions in the coarser granite of this part of the moor and stood tall at the top to admire the wide view over the valley and medieval village below. Despite the occasional discomfort in the cooling November winds, I felt a deep, blissful, joy walking barefoot in this landscape, like I had gained an extra sense, feeling the granular heartbeat and rhythm of the Earth through the skin of my soles, sampling every texture and temperature of the land as I walked. I realised how shoes involve a kind of numbing or blunting of the senses, insulating us from the ground, and separating us from our ancestral birthright to walk on our own two feet.

    A small, straggled stream of chatting families and day ramblers trickled down the hill in their own gentle rhythm with walking poles swinging and conversations echoing in the shadowy chambers of the tor rocks in which I sheltered. I climbed down to follow this human rivulet, like a trout returning to the main body of the river, from a restful sojourn in a quiet pool, as we all headed for the stony necklace of higher tors, that lay adorning the rising grassy chest of the moorlands above. The clear, cooling, ground water welled up from the woven mat of grass, massaging my bare feet, blissfully bathing them, like a natural sponge. I reached a small car park and road to cross at the bottom of the hill, before climbing up again, and felt the sharp contrast of the scraping, pinching tarmac on my exposed soles. I gratefully leapt back into the soft grass on the other side, which grew drier and warmer on the sun soaked southern flank of the hill as I climbed the well worn path up to Bell Tor. The bracken shone golden, on either side, growing all the way up to the foot of the tor, which rose in a craggy cone, with vivid blue sky piercing iridescently through two triangular framing holes in the rock, capped by granite capstones. I walked off the main trail along a thin bracken skirted track, at the base of the tor, and climbed up the shallower side, to find a soft grassy spot to sit near the apex of this jumbled pile of time tumbled granite. I sat warmly, sheltered by the tor, squinting in the low sun, eating my packed lunch, looking out over a wide vista of moorland, all the way over to a distant Haytor and its near neighbour, Saddle Tor, that stood like two raised nipples on the whitish-blue horizon. I was distracted from my reverie by a crow far below, pottering among the bracken, stretching his glossy black wings, outer feathers separating almost like fingers, to lift effortlessly onto granite boulders. I inwardly said ‘hello’ to this native denizen of Dartmoor, asking silently if he would like to visit me, if it was his will. He disappeared behind the face of the tor and I returned to looking out across the moor, but sometime later, he landed on a boulder very close to me, and eyed me for several minutes, cocking his head to one side, seemingly asking “well here I am, and who might you be?” He seemed to embody the stark, wildness of the place, speaking to me in a language of gesture and curiosity older than any words I might have for him. We sat in a silent communion for a while, until our encounter was complete, and he lifted off into the wide air swooping down and out of sight to return to his own activities.

    I too had a walk to continue, so I rose up stiffly, splashed gleefully through peaty, watery puddles at the top of the tour, and on along the high ridge to the next granite knot in this string of tors. The grass grew wilder, more wiry, and windswept, with clumps of pale mauve heather sheltering by boulders. In a moment of distraction, I stubbed my bare foot toe on a rough piece of granite protruding from the path, and looked down to see that it had incised a small crescent moon shaped cut in my big toe, which was now bleeding. The watery grasses washed and cleaned the blood away, but had given me a sharp reminder, that walking bare foot requires a continual attention to where you are putting your feet on the ground. It is wonderfully connecting to feel the different textures of land, from soft, to hard, to gritty, but it can also punish distraction and inattention, so that it’s better to stop walking when admiring the view above the ground.

    I walked on, more diligently, and came to a grassy rise covering a low granite outcrop. Atop the rise, stood another denizen of this wild country; a Dartmoor pony, dark chestnut brown, with her distinctive thick, black, shaggy mane and tail, feeding lustily on the wiry tufts of grass, and contrasting starkly with the bright blue sky behind. These native ponies may have graced these moorlands stretching all the way back to at least the Neolithic, as 3500 year old hoof prints of similar wild horses have been uncovered in local archeological excavations. As the pony continued her feeding, seemingly uninterested in, and unbothered by, my approach, she afforded another wistful impression of time collapsing thousands of years. She worked her way down from the rise, chewing and wrenching up copious amounts of grass as she went, before eventually looking up to eye me fixedly through her thick black fringe, as I gave a sniff of greeting in the way that most polite mammals do. My greeting acknowledged, she dipped her head, returned to the more important business of scratching her long neck on a convenient outcrop of rough granite, and walked down to join a fellow pony, where they were both beautifully framed in the landscape of distant tors and rolling moorlands; a scene from the ages.

    I walked on through more soothing wet grasses and dark peaty puddles, where I stooped to clean my still bleeding toe. The terrain steepened again on the approach to Chinkwell tor with large cairns of granite rocks piled up to a pinnacle on top of the granite outcrops, presumably by the many thousands of passing ramblers over the years. Before I reached it, an older man with a traditional wooden walking stick in hand, and wearing a dark green wax jacket, approached me with friendly curiosity, and asked me in a well spoken accent, how tough my soles were to walk barefoot on the moor. His wife soon joined us with a similar friendly and open curiosity. I replied that my foot soles weren’t particularly tough, as I had only started walking barefoot in nature in the spring, and had since realised that our soles are all pretty tough as we'd evolved to walk barefoot, despite our modern tendency to wrap boots and socks around them. I extolled the virtues of barefoot walking in providing a much deeper connection to the landscape, but the friendly couple seemed unconvinced about trying it for themselves, even though admiring my ‘chutzpah’ in doing so. The gentleman mused that the tribes of Africa still walked barefoot, but I had to disabuse him of this idea, because apart from tribal communities such as the Masai who have stoically kept to many of their tribal traditions, most modern Africans have joined the shoe wearing ‘tribe’ now prevalent around the world. We said our goodbyes, went our separate ways, and I climbed up to survey the 360 degree view from the local high point of Chinkwell tor by one of the cairns. I spun around, taking in the grand circle of tors punctuating the horizon, with green, grassy, sun-blazed, moorlands stitched between them, and the fields of rural, ‘civilised’, Devon stretching all the way out to the coast and the rolling seas to the South.

    My nature thirst, fully satiated by such a clear and wonderful view, I carefully navigated the tumble of granite rock on the other side of the tor and followed the thin, gritty path down and along, until the path rose up one more time where I climbed up to the final, and most majestic tor of my walk, the aptly named, Honeybag Tor.

    Wren, Robin singing, crow, flocks of glistening pigeons.
    Hembury Woods - wellies
    Autumn leaves in the light
    Full Dart river
    Lesser spotted woodpecker
    Bonehill Rocks
    The joy of bare feet
    Crow visit
    Dartmoor ponies
    Cut toe
    Couple talking about my bare feet
    Circle of tors
    Rougher granite
    Buzzard calls
    Depths of the Earth
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  • Day9

    Sabbacombe Sands

    November 2, 2020 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌬 12 °C

    I woke up early at 6am in my old childhood bedroom at my parents’ house in Exeter, as I was visiting ahead of the second Covid19 pandemic lockdown. The morning sky was bright with the dawn sun tinging the clouds read as it rose unseen behind the family home. I did my daily nature ritual connecting with the kingdom of plants that day. I took my breakfast outside into my parent’s well tended garden, and sat on a stone step by the large garden pond, with deep orange goldfish slowly stirring below the reflective surface, under the lily pads. Goldfinches twittered and chattered to each other in the large hawthorn tree growing just beyond the garden fence. A robin landed in its gnarly branches and struck up his beautiful, melodic song. He was rudely interrupted by a ring-necked dove landing heavily at the top of the tree’s crown, which sent the robin darting for cover. A solitary crow flapped his black, fanned wings as he passed overhead and seagulls circled unusually silently in the sunny sky with billowing storm clouds forming around. The deep red leaves of a small acer tree were strewn across the rockery, and various plants still flowered hopefully in the late Autumn, as the first frost was yet to arrive.The day already seemed filled with natural gifts as I decided to use the better than forecast weather to visit one of my favourite beaches, Scabbacombe Cove, nestled snugly in a coastal valley in South Devon between Brixham and Dartmouth.

    I packed a lunch and set off in the mid-morning sunshine, although the darker clouds suggested seasonal showers would be dowsing and fertilising the land during my walk this day. I arrived at the National Trust car park in good time. The low sun was still shining as I embarked down a stony path, with classic Devonshire, high sided hedges on both sides. Rounding a corner, I was treated to a grand view of a steep sided, grassy valley with a deep blue sea beyond, broken up with wind-whipped, white-horse, waves. Such views of the open sea always evoke wistful thoughts of travel and adventure in me, and invited my imagination to spread out into the wide world.

    I reached a very wet and muddy section of the path, just before a gate into a field, and this felt like the time to take off my trail shoes and let the cool mud seep up between my toes. It was wonderful to feel the cool Earth beneath me, and another treat for my foot soles to feel the wet-dewy grass as I descended the steep field into the valley leading to the cove. I rounded the hill into a wide vista of the sea, with Scabbacombe cove beckoning below. The sea waves gently sighed onto the beach of mixed sand and shingle. High headlands on either side of the cove seemed to soar in the white light of the late morning sun. Another steep and slippery descent brought me to the top of the beach, fed by a stream, tumbling it’s bubbling waters onto the flat worn rocks on the beach, and twisting down to meet the sea like a child returning to its mother. I walked out onto the beach over the flat rocks, with the clear stream water cooling my feet and ankles. I reached that magical place where the stream joyously mingles with the sea waves. I let my feet sink into the sand as the gentle waves lapped onto my lower legs. The water felt pleasantly mild as the cooler Autumn had not yet penetrated the sea’s great, summer warmed, body.

    I was soon followed onto the beach by a couple and their three children, that I had said ‘hello’ to back up in the car park and could hear their youthful and happy family chatter behind me as I had walked down. I walked on across the beach to visit a beautiful cliff-top waterfall at the far end of the beach, which gushes out of a grassy channel at the top, and pours down the cliff to form a mesmerising, melodic stream through smoothed and polished dark blue-grey, striated rocks at the bottom. As I stopped to take a photo of the grassy headland with orange-brown tufted bracken bordering its edges, I could hear the family chatter close behind me. I realised that they were also making a ‘bee-line” for the cliff-top waterfall. I was happy to let the eager father and his three kids to pass me and climb up onto the rocks under the waterfall, while I chatted pleasantly to the mother briefly, finding out that they lived locally. I pottered about in the rock pools by the sea where the waterfall stream met the waves. After the family had enjoyed their time up by the waterfall and walked down to where I was by the sea, I took my turn and walked up to the waterfall, as it’s waters glistened and danced in the sunlight, free-falling to crash on the rocks below. The family soon headed back along the beach, and as their chatter slowly faded away, I was lucky enough to spend the next few hours undisturbed in this magical spot. I sat eating my lunch on the polished rocks, with the waterfall tumbling down nearby, my feet caressed by the cool stream waters flowing by. I looked out to the, endlessly, rolling waves, fluorescing foam from their crown tips as the cold wind tried futilely to blow them back out to sea. The wide, whitish-grey, sands blazed in the sunlight forming wavy, patterned, lines of graded sizes and colours of silicon granules, gently woven like textile threads by the retreating sea. Seagulls spiralled in great flocks above the sea, which dissipated almost as soon as they’d formed. High, voluminous, cloudscapes formed inland blowing out over the back of the beach, creating dramatic light shows with the rays of the low white sun angled upwards. The clouds released occasional, brief showers of rain, turning into dark torrential storms over the sea. I took cover in nearby sea caves when the rain grew heavy and more persistent, which led me to explore the dark and mysterious depths of a larger sea cave, drips echoing loudly in the tidal pools beneath its salty, rocky, echoing chambers.

    After sitting, meditating on the beautiful, natural gifts of my surroundings, on the smoothed rocks by the stream for a few hours, I ambled back along the beach, as the descending late afternoon sun cast lengthening shadows from the pebbles and rocks strewn artfully across the sand and shingle. I stood ankle deep amidst the waves, occasionally jumping backwards, when a larger wave from the incoming tide threatened to submerge my rolled up trousers. I decided to reluctantly leave the magic behind, and make my way back up over the flattened river rocks of the larger stream I had walked down hours earlier when I had entered the beach. However, nature had one more gift for me before I left; a small, lively rock pipit picked and flicked its way through the flotsam left high on the tide line looking for insects and morsels to eat. I watched her at close quarters for several minutes, taking a nice video with my camera. It was now finally time to say goodbye to this beach haven, and head back up the green, grassy valley to my car. I bumped into a friendly Liverpudlian hiker and wild camper for my second human encounter of the day as I began my climb back up the hill. He asked if I was ‘mad’ to be walking barefoot in the Autumn, and I extolled the virtues of feeling the Earth beneath one’s feet. He was planning to wild camp on the beach in the cold Autumn night, and I suggested that he might be ‘madder’ then me!

    As I climbed the hill, I stopped to sit in the waning sunlight, and look back out across the sea with its white, roiling waves stretching out to the curving edge of the Earth. A huge seven story cruise ship, looking like a floating city, was moored far out, apparently taking refuge in the coastal waters as the raging Covid19 pandemic had turned such vessels into death traps. I took the steep climb back up through the valley fields. A stormy squall hit me as I climbed, turning a pleasant stroll, into a freezing battle against the wind. I made it to the sheltered, muddy lane, only enduring some half-intentionally induced nettle stings to my bare ankles along the way. Such nettle stings are apparently good for the blood flow in herbal medicines, and I like to feel this stingy connection with one of my favourite wild plants. I reached my lone car in the car park and headed for my parents’ home. As I descended towards Paignton, I was greeted by a vividly coloured and spectacular double rainbow in the evening sunlight. One end of the rainbow fell into the deep blue waters of the bay, arced over cruise ships sheltering there, and fell far out to sea on the other side. I drove on, smiling inside, my heart filled full with the natural wonders of the day.
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