|Frosted horse-apples, Swifts Hill|
It may be a late, cold, spring, but the birds are getting on with it. As I left the house, the blackbirds were doing warm-up 'spinks' and are now in full voice from Trantershill Wood as I walk up the track that runs between the wood and the hill. Other birds begin to join the chorus; a green woodpecker contributes a hysterical cackle to the top line and I can also hear a spotted woodpecker drumming in the base. It's not quite a full-scale dawn chorus, more of a rural church choir, but it's pretty impressive, even so.
By the time I get to the top of the hill, there's a rosy light warming the very tops of the trees at the rim of the far side of the valley. Dawn is a rather drawn-out affair in this valley because the sun is coming up behind Bisley and even after it's technically risen, it still has to climb up over the hill. This is helpful, as I stand trying to engage my brain with the camera in order to get all the photographic ducks in a row. I am getting to grips with my (newish) SLR but before six in the morning I struggle with putting one foot in front of the other, never mind the whole aperture-shutter-speed-ISO-white-balance thing.
|Dawn light over Slad|
I now walk along the side of the hill and cross the stile into the field above, where I spend a chilly few minutes trying to photograph the pink edges of closed daisies and the dew-lapped seed-heads of something smaller and neater than dandelions while the light behind the skyline grows.
|Golden light in beech tree|
Leaving the wood behind, I rejoin the footpath and cross the dew-drenched field through an area which the map calls 'Purgatory'. Why, I wonder? And is it connected with the 'Paradise' valley near Painswick, and the fact that Elcombe was originally 'Hell Combe'? It isn't at all purgatorial today, though I imagine in winter wind and weather it could be a bit grim up here. The footpath skirts an attractive stone house on two sides, then up a short flight of steps past a tiny stone building with oriel windows like a miniature chapel or the housing for a sacred well. (As far as I can see, it's neither.) In the garden of the house, a horse chestnut tree has brand-new leaves hanging limp, like recently-hatched butterflies waiting for their wings to dry.
|Green shoot patterns, Fennell's Farm|
Bisley Road is busy with the beginning of rush hour traffic but I don't have to walk far along it before turning left into Daw's Lane, which is a green track flanked by gnarled sort of trees which give it an ancient air. I suspect it is old, since its name appears on the OS map. Like the stream, its trees provide windows onto the outside world - views of the valley on my left and planted fields on my right. As the track turns towards the north, the views begin to include Slad village. There are few birds up here - possibly because there's a shotgun birdscarer somewhere nearby which goes off startlingly at regular intervals.
Unexpectedly, I come across a small but determined stream running across the path and over the edge of the hill down into the wood. I don't remember seeing it last time I was here, but that was a year or so ago - I'm wondering if it's part of the water source that becomes the stream which runs down the crease of the valley at Elcombe. After last summer and winter, all such springs and streams are running at full pitch, I would think.
It's surprisingly hard to tell exactly where I am as I skirt the top of the woods - this is an edge, all right, but it's impossible to see into the valley from here to judge how far along I've come. I'm slightly relieved to recognise the field above Swifts where I was trying to photograph daisies earlier. Some of them have opened their eyes now, but not many - it's still perishing cold. Now as I walk back along the side of the hill, the sun is picking up the tops of all the trees in Abbey Wood and the one or two which have already turned green stand out starkly. Below, the valley has already filled up with sunshine. From there it's but a hop, skip and jump (not literally) to the hill, where I'm just in time to disrupt a puppy training session.