“Okay then, email me if you wake early. And if it looks hopeful, I’ll come down…” My son had asked if we could go and greet the sun somewhere again, if the weather was suitable. Having slept badly the past few nights, I can’t say that I was overly enthusiastic. I can watch the dawn perfectly well from the warmth of my living room window with a coffee in my hand.
“Shouldn’t think I will, I’m pretty tired…” he said. I sighed with relief. A relief that was short-lived as, according to my inbox next morning, he’d been awake since four and the sky was unexpectedly clear. The night had been cold. Rain had turned to sleet which had fast become a thick layer of ice. Cursing quietly, I scraped the stuff off the windscreen and headed for town in the pre-dawn light.
Nick’s garden was an ice-rink and getting him into the car safely was no easy task. The main roads were reasonable, but we were heading out of town and onto backroads that would not have been treated. As we climbed the one decent hill that has both a parking spot and a view unobstructed by hedgerows, the car became as excitable as an untrained pup and I was glad when we could pull over. Even the sheep had not yet risen, but here we were, once again, chasing the sunrise…
It was not until that moment that I began to feel glad we had braved the morning. Snow had settled on the higher ground. Not much… just a dusting… but enough to catch the golden light and blue shadows of a winter sunrise.
I left Nick leaning against the car and took the camera for a walk, completely forgetting about the boots, coat and gloves that I keep in there for days like this. It is not the most inspiring landscape, with few trees and no rocks or buildings to add interest to the photographs, but there was a sign saying ‘beware of the bull’ on the fence and evidence that the farmer was not just trying to keep out stray walkers.
The youngsters in the field were placidly curious. They had already been fed, so the wild haired, red-nosed, blue-fingered lunatic pointing the camera at them did not unduly disturb them. Nor did the pheasants lift their head from breaking their fast, and the buzzard just sat on the fence post while I snapped away.
As the sun rose in the east, the western sky glowed pink and the crescent moon rode high above the fields.
For a few brief moments, the world was lost on a golden glow, then the shadows deepened, highlighting the remnants of the medieval ridge-and-furrow fields. Sunlight gleamed on ice and sparkled on snow and the breath of the beasts rose in clouds. It was perfect.
By eight o’clock, the sun was up and we could head back to warmth… except that by this time all the roads would be heaving with rush hour traffic. We were going to have to queue on busy roads for an hour, just to go five miles… or we could take a scenic route, down the narrow lanes I know so well, away from the rat-runs, and see what the morning offered. There was no contest really… but we really did not expect there would be quite so much beauty waiting…