Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘storm

Paradise Valley

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I’ve lived in Sutton Poyntz for six months now. A mile to the south is the sea. A mile to the east is Osmington and half a mile to the north but up a very steep hill is the “top of my mountain”. Walking my dogs around this wonderful area has fulfilled every dream that I dared hope for when I first arrived.

The Mysteries Of the East

The Mysteries Of the East

We have perhaps half a dozen standard walks that we’ve learned, each one of which can be varied with diversions, extensions or shortcuts. Usually we walk for about and hour and a half. The one delight that is always there is a succession of dramatic and quite beautiful views. I never tire of these wonderful vistas across the valley, to the sea, the Isle of Portland and beyond.

I believe that being able to see some distance is fundamentally good for your psyche. Even in the midst of our ghastly capital city on the 12th floor of a vile 1970s tower block there was some consolation to be gained from

Go West Young Man

Go West Young Man

the view. In Paradise Valley the views move me every day as they change and develop with the seasons. Quite why just looking can make me well up and seems to touch my soul, I do not know but it fascinates me that the dogs will do the same thing. We reach the peak of a hill or come round a corner and they will stand on a wall or look over a hedge – and just look.

After one false start, spring is here. In the great national blizzard we got off lightly with merely an inch or so. A fortnight later though and we had our own intense Dorset storm and we woke up to four inches and twelve hours without power.

Taking In The View

Taking In The View

Another fortnight on and the daffodils and crocuses are out. There is already some intensity in the warmth of the sun and all around gardeners are beginning to dig and to sow, to dream of runner beans and strawberries. Up on the hill they were burning the gorse. Quite why I’m not sure. Then this week they brought in a formidable machine which seemed to crawl up and down the sides of the mountain completely demolishing the gorse bushes  and leaving an apparently smooth and fresh sward of pasture.

This required immediate investigation and so the dogs and I struck out for the top. Up closer we discovered a compact bulldozer on caterpillar tracks with a vicious flail mounted on front. The driver told me that it weighs bulldozer-workingsix tons and guiding it across the slope sometimes it would slip andbulldozer slide and nearly give him a heart attack. He explained that the gorse needs to be cut back simply to keep it under control. He’s a braver man than me. Perhaps he doesn’t know that others deliberately throw themselves off the mountain underneath paragliders.

So in a deepening wamth, for the first time since winter took hold, I find time to sit. With the absence of movement, without having to worry about negotiating the hills and the fields, with time just to sit and contemplate, the valley bursts into life. It’s like sitting in a huge and magnificent amphitheatre but there’s not just the single focus of a sport or contest. Every single part of the valley throbs with activity. A family of deer watch the dogs in trepidation.carla-watches-deer1 Countless beautiful, big, brown buzzards soar and swoop. A pair of kestrels hover over the gorse bushes. The biggest rabbit warren I have ever seen, a city full of bunnies, teems with bobbing white tails. The trees are developing that slightly misty look as millions of buds begin to swell and fill. The insect population is burgeoning and heading towards a total that must surely be in the billions, surely exceeding even the number of humans across the whole of our world.

Paradise Valley is blossoming and as it blooms with it will come ever more intense beauty and experience. This, surely, is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and I live right here. For me it truly is paradise.

kestrels1

Walking The Dog 4

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Walking The Dog 4

 

Oh joy! Some real weather returns to crown the long bank holiday weekend and end the tedious republic of sunshine.  Capone has to be dragged from the house because although he will plunge into an icy sea in the depths of winter, a little gentle drizzle is enough to deter him from leaving his lap of luxury inside.

 

So the riot act is read.  The beast is told that there is no room for runts in this regiment and with hanging head and screwed up eyes we venture into the rain.  Our normal cut through to the foreshore, where we usually hop over a gently dribbling stream, is transformed into a four foot deep raging torrent so we have to turn and take the long way round.  The lead has to be reapplied twice before he finally takes the hint and then the full glory of Chichester harbour opens up in front of us.

 

The rain doesn’t just come down in sheets. It is like unravelling great bales of sailmaker’s cloth.  The wind takes it and flaunts it and slaps you in the face. Already my trousers are soaking to the knees but now Capone’s tail is up.  There’s a job to be done.  The fat, snotty-nosed kids and their even fatter mothers have gone from the beach.  The inflatable kayaks are back in the garage and high water beckons for the boards with their storm sails and the bold knights of the sea who will skim the waves and charge the surf.  This is the glory of battle with the elements.  Courage and determination and persistence and rain and wind, even if, alas, no sleet and snow.

 

Summer has some advantages for only in full leaf can the trees deposit an extra six or seven gallons with each gust.  The gulls soar. The rooks rise and fall and the odd saturated pigeon flutters from the branches.

 

There is not another soul to be seen until out of the woods comes a solitary figure in wellies and a barbour but still in his summer shorts.  Behind him plods his aging, morose labrador not yet encouraged to arms, still believing in the misinformation that it is calm and sun and quiet that leads to happiness.

 

Across the fields the barley shoots that have been reaching for the sun droop and sag under the weight of water but you can almost hear their roots sucking the moisture, preparing themselves with the energy to burst upwards once again when the skies clear.  Nature has its own intelligence, far cleverer than the sophistication of man, far smarter than our short term, pleasure seeking easy lives.  The true hedonism is in contrast and struggle.  Only in the darkest hour is the brightest light.  The arid desert is drenched in life-giving rain and inspiration comes when the gloom closes in tightest and grips hardest.


 

The beast understands nothing of this but he knows it all.  At last, puddles are no longer avoided but splashed through.  The spring returns to his step and the tail is held high and proud and wags uncontrollably as the sticks are found and thrown and retrieved.

 

Our route is not cut short by the weather.  In fact, it is extended and though we meet one bedraggled runner and chance upon just one more of the regular dog walkers, this is the best walk in a month.  Returning home for a vigorous towelling and a couple of quadruple espressos puts the seal on the bank holiday.  This is how Mondays were meant to be.

 

Peter Reynolds 26-05-08