A Short Walk Gone Feral

Climbing up the hill toward Paradise Lane, just before the kissing gate arched over by the crooked hazel, a large dragonfly hit me directly in the forehead.

It snapped me out of whatever daydream I was in and I started poking around underneath the oak in the hedgerow to the right. I immediately spotted a clump of tiny oak leaves, then another, then some more. In the short time I was looking, I counted at least 10 little oaks growing there on the edge of the field. Some looked very recent, some perhaps had been there for a couple of years. They seem keen to establish themselves into a mini woodland watched over by their parent tree who I recall had a good year prior on the acorn front.

I continued upward, passing through the kissing gate and into the next field. Glastonbury Tor rises on the crest of this hill, known as Stone Down, poking its tower above the horizon quite surprisingly. From this approach the sides of the Tor incline satisfyingly at equal angles resembling a pyramid.

I arrived at a field on Paradise Lane that has recently lost its gate. I was guided in this direction by a friendly pilgrim who gave word of a fallen pine that I might find of some interest. The pine had two leader trunks, one half had been brought down in recent winds. The branch led on the ground like a furry tree creature and the winds shuffled the pine’s long needles giving the impression it was animate.

Hidden among the drapes of needles the pine kept its treasures. Growing from the highest branches like giant bear claws were clusters of pine cones, each one the size of my fist. They hung like precious Faberge eggs encrusted with Fibonacci mathematics, quite strangely arranged, as if not quite by nature. I understand the tree to be a Monterrey Pine “Pinus Radiata”. The term radiata perhaps refers to the radial symmetry of the growth of the pine cones around the stem.

I attempted to remove one, it was a two handed job. I had to unscrew the cone from its fitting, turning at least three revolutions before it would pop off. The cone was accompanied by a wooden stem, like a dowel joint, that left a defined hole in the branch. The above image shows the cones at their various stages of development, they can remain on the tree, concealing their precious cargos for many years.

***

The folds of this field slope satisfyingly down towards the Wicks. The views out to the Mendips are spectacular and were made all the more impressive on this day due to incoming storms from the North and West. Sheets of falling cloud curtained portions of the horizon, while the sun shone through the areas left, revealing ever-changing islands of blue sky. The previous storm cloud was moving onward towards Pilton, the next one was impending, moving in off the Bristol Channel like a vast migrating herd of beasts galloping across The Levels towards Glastonbury.

A view like this puts your weather in context. When you can watch the space through which a storm passes, see it in its completeness and magnitude, it seems like almost a blessing to be wetted by it.

A sparse drizzle started to gain momentum, the storm was rolling closer to the Island and I became suddenly aware I was standing in a field during a storm. I decided to retreat to temporary shelter along Paradise lane. As I did so, the storm cracked a bolt directly overhead. My stomach shot into my mouth and my heart rattled like a wren. As I stopped to steady myself beneath an ash I realised that despite not having been struck by the lightning that I was nonetheless quite shocked.

That kind of power is rarely witnessed at such close range. My mind was drawn for a moment towards the terror of war and bombs, that’s the only thing comparable to such a sound. This bolt shook the ground as did one that fell on the previous day. It felt like the clearance and reinvigoration that we had been waiting for.

The storm drifted to an almost comfortable distance, still popping and spitting its forked lightning tongue into the ground at regular intervals. I emerged tentatively from cover to film what was unfolding.

As I continued to observe the stormy horizons, my peripheral caught something feral, an anomalous twitching in the undergrowth. As my eyes took focus I recognised a bright orange fox picking its way through the long green grass. It headed up the field’s perimeter, making tracks for the corner, before bouncing off into the hedgerow.

In a moment, my focus had jumped from a sky full of storms, straight into the intimate world of the fox. It was a juxtaposed cut that I couldn’t quite believe and I had to check that I was not asleep.

This short walk had seriously overturned my expectations, what was intended as a brief foray between showers had transformed into a trip down the rabbit hole. Perhaps the dragonfly had flicked me into some sort of parallel reality, a surreal dream doused in symbolic references, like a myth unfolding before my very eyes. Thankfully I have photographic evidence, as in hindsight, I am not sure whether it was all a dream.

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Matt Witt

Author Matt Witt

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