The Lawley: Hill and Plain
The ideal New Year should be peaceful and come full of promise. Earlier this week my first walk of the New Year was both. I’d walked this way only a week or so before and what a difference a week had made. The hills were dry, the streams lively but not obese, the skies were clear and the temperatures almost spring-like.
Just prior to the Christmas holiday normally benign hills had proved to be quite treacherous underfoot. I had climbed high and started to walk over ground that had seemed dry. As soon as a little drizzle fell the new top moisture combined with the waterlogged earth to turn the hill into ice rink. The sharp descent off the hill suddenly became a major challenge as the sharp slopes did their best to deposit me on my backside every minute or so.
But for the New Year calm appeared all around. Temperatures were so mild that the grasses were growing once again and sheep had climbed up to higher ground. Sun beamed down on my back as I walked North West so much so that I’d wished there was still a little content left in the old sun cream tube that I’d found at the bottom of my pack. The mild and dry air had brought out families and dog walkers enjoying holidays at various farmyard lets. Far below my high ridge the main road was almost silent for once.
Climbing down from my high perch it seemed indecent not to climb high again and so I set off towards the Long Mynd taking one of the quieter and lesser walked climbs. Often this walk is rendered strenuous by a mass of heavyweight bracken but the earlier winter had broken down this adversary turning it into a useful winter carpet which protected me from the heavy seasonal mud. On this occasion the struggle up the tight valley was fuelled by seasonal over-indulgence rather than natural habitat.
The high moorland was still displaying evidence of the great deluge. Pools and ponds sat in places new but with a permanence that was slightly disturbing. Well-walked tracks suddenly looked alien decked out as they were with an unseasonal growth of green. Maps were not consulted but somehow my walk had taken down a very different path than that which I normally walk. It’s fascinating how dramatically different a path can look at different times of the year.
As I descended I began to meet fellow walkers all in relaxed, good, spirits. The National Trust Tea Rooms are busy if not thronging but quiet and gentle. In the village the mid afternoon light was fading, aided by a clouding sky. Festival lights cut through the deepening gloom though this was no traditional mid winter scene.
I took the dry, gentle and warm day to be a good omen for the coming year. Surely this year has to be more accommodating to those who venture outdoors? A brisk walk — as brief as this five hour tramp — can dramatically raise the spirits and cement an air of optimism. My afternoon train carried me back over the River Severn dramatically bloated, flooded and free-flowing still, a reminder that we still might not everything our own way despite a promising start to the New year.