It’s early, early enough for my eyes to feel fat, for silvered strands of cobweb to catch on my face. The dogs nag to be let off their leads. They rush around, noses down, greedy for the night-scents.
The sledging hill is frosted, and I slither down past badger-plundered cow pats to the spinney. The spinney’s mainly beech, and its beauty in the first shafts of sun light takes away my breath. Golden, amber fire.
I’m supposed to be in a hurry, but all this richness has caught at me. Up over Bramshill, the clay-red path is strewn with black, business-like slugs, neat and intent, half the length and width of my ring finger.
At the very top of the hill, the valley is half-couched in mist, but the thick band of fir woods are free, the oaks above them catching fire in the sun.
I can hear crows and pheasants, smell the skunkiness of a fox. Far away I can hear the road, carrying people to work, children to school. I stop at the wonky stile onto Clump, look back. The rosettes of thistles are glittering, thousands of them.
There’s a blackthorn beside the stile, heavy with round, lilac-bloomed sloes. I touch my finger-tip to one, carefully, leaving my print.