Many of this month’s walks have been carefully planned to span the gaps between one shower and the next, darting from orchard to orchard to experience the next downpour from a dryish spot, and often falling short. I enjoy the novelty of being outside in a summer shower and this month I have found myself caught out in plenty of them, in many cases, absolutely on purpose.
I have come to know well the effective sheltering spots – a hedgerow oak with large crown and low boughs provides good company, her girthy trunk lends a break from the sideways rain that seeks to soak one’s legs at right angles. Grandmother lime, with her dense foliage and low hanging canopy, can provide probably the driest outdoor spot in Avalon. But despite the roofing, when rain is persistent enough the drips eventually work their way through her crown, gathering upon the leaves until their weight becomes too much and they crash through the canopy gathering more water as they go and wetting the crown of whoever is standing beneath like some sort of arboreal baptism.
One of the many orchards that encircle the Tor provides perfect shelter from the wet, a particularly narrow corridor with overgrown hedges on both sides that is so densely planted with apple trees that it’s possible for the squirrels to travel from the bottom to the top without touching the ground. As they go, they dislodge the ripening apples which thud to the ground and map out the routes of their elevated trails upon the orchard floor. When one is stood within this green enclosure, back to trunk in a downpour the sound of the rainfall is all consuming, other senses take a back seat and one is cocooned within in the rain’s powerful white noise.
If it weren’t for the dense greenery and incessant crickets, one could be forgiven for having mistaken this July for the month of October. An unending shroud of low grey has rolled in from the west and brings with it relentless showers. Occasionally, the sun finds a chink in the blanket allowing light to flood in beneath the gloom to illuminate, the landscape like heaven shone a spotlight. These ecstatic fits of light and colour provide relief albeit brief from the persistent monotones of the past month, they are the silver lining to our daily grey.
The hills of Avalon provide a perfect vantage point to observe the clouds welling up and over spilling onto the levels. From here one can appreciate the full majesty of the blanketed landscape, the horizons are drawn closer by the shrouds and numerous little shower pockets empty themselves upon villages smudging out patches of the skyline like a finger tip through graphite. Many of the approaching showers head down the flanks of the island as they make their way eastward, either falling over street and Butleigh, or else running along the northern edge to fall on Godney and Coxley. A fair share of water-laden clouds make a direct hit, billowing up over the hills like colossal water dragons.
As the sky grows darker, the advancing leviathans let off a little spit, followed by an ominous pause. This is a final warning of the last opportunity to gain shelter before the beast’s blackened bellies are breached and the full extent of their force ensues. A quiet pitter-patter starts and then steadily increases to reach what might seem like a climax – great steer rods hammer down from the beast’s undersides like a million rattlesnakes crash landing through the canopy – but there is more still – maximum flow is not yet reached. A final crank of the dial increases the guttural hissing to capacity while bringing visibility to a minimum. On one occasion I was treated to a flash of lightning and immediate clap of thunder directly overhead before the great water beast was slowly ushered away by the prevailing winds and the noise gradually subsided to a more moderate and continuous shushing.
As much as I enjoy these experiences, I am frustrated to have lost a good month of potential sunshine. I find myself fantasising about the beautiful day that is happening up above the gloom while we learn to tolerate early nightfall in mid July. Up there above the clouds, the sun is shining as it always does yet we are at the mercy of this despondent dim, struggling to find the bright side.
Out in the lanes, where the hedges were bouncy and overflowing, they now appear weighted and burdened by the wet. The high winds have stirred up the place and all is scruffy and rearranged by the weather. This Summer’s rain has provoked a fine early show of Lammas growth, adding to the hedges’ hunched posture. Most noticeably, the oaks develop polka-dots of bright green growth set against the darker racing green of their first leaves. This ‘second spring’ or ‘summer leafing’ appears along with the oaks developing acorns, splaying out upon their peduncles in far more notable numbers than the previous year.
Up on Wearyall Hill, when it’s not pissing down, I take nightly walks to a favourite sitting spot that provides south easterly views out over the levels. The walk is a beautiful one along the ridge of the hill rising slowly past where the thorn once stood. A series of benches provide convenient resting places along the way and one of the most attractive angles of Glastonbury Tor can be enjoyed from here, with a line of sight that peers through the arched doorway of St Michal’s tower.
Up here, the owls are at it nightly, squawking and hooting from the woods covering the western side of the hill. On a recent jaunt, I was treated to an opera of owl song that began at my door and continued all the way to the peak of Wearyall hill. There I sat squawking and hooting back in an attempt to join the conversation. The owls’ ongoing exchange was so frequent that I never really knew if they were responding, whether they were oblivious to me, or else absolutely outraged by my poor attempt at mimicry.
As I walk these hills day-to-day I observe nature’s processes playing out, I listen to the orchestra of crickets and watch the bees forever unstill, the badgers on their nightly forage – in these moments I learn of daily commitment and of challenges that are immediate and present. From week-to-week, upon the hills, I observe the processes of growth and production, and learn of persistence, repetition, and reliability. I am guided from month-to-month by the cycles of the moon – I learn of observable cycles, and of those unknown and invisible.
From season-to-season, I watch the effect of the earth’s tilt enacted upon the land and its inhabitants, from the ignition of Spring to the yearning of Autumn – I learn of community, planning and foresight. From year-to-year I watch the horizons change shape, my body change form, my outlooks alter – I learn of impermanence, grief, and resurrection. In all of these timeframes I learn the bountiful results of prolonged tending, of ongoing conservation and of nurturing, I learn of deep gratitude, and a great deal more besides.
Lughnasadh blessings to you. Until next time, we walk To The Trees.
MW – 1/8-23
A Visual Diary – July
Public Tree Walks, Glastonbury – By Donation
Summer Tree Walk – Sat 5th Aug July 11am – 1pm – Event link
Woodland Fire – Acoustic night – Thu 10th, 24th Aug- Event Link
Summer Tree Walk – Sat 26th Aug 11am – 1pm – Event link
Abbey Tree Walk – Sat 19th Aug 11am – 12.30pm – Details and tickets
Walks for individuals and groups, for birthdays, weddings, and as an add on to your retreat, at a date and time to suit you.
Call Matt to book: 07548 936 081
Bring the outside in!
The To The Trees Newsletter A monthly release of creative writing by Matt, dedicated to the trees and released every Full Moon. Sign up to receive it straight to your inbox at this link: http://eepurl.com/gSt1mj