winterrunning3

Jan 2, 2010. Up later today, the sun higher, and a brilliant bright morning it is, frost on the verges and the fields. A peerless sky. Wonderful. I head east again, into the promise of the day. I’ve wondered about this. If I ran in the evening would I head west, to catch the sun? I think so, probably. Annie Dillard has something to say about those who look upstream and those who look downstream…the difference between hope and regret perhaps. I must look it up. Anyway I’ve become more aware of direction these days, in relation to wind and sun and shelter. It seems natural, and therefore right and proper, to run into the day not away from it.

I go further today before heading south. Past the old railway-workers cottages at Westwick, and then it hits me like a wonderful surprise, that most evocative of English winter smells, as roses are to summer, woodsmoke drifting on the air. O perfect day! I let out a whoop, and startle blackbirds in the hedge. Am on the B-road now, without verge, footpath or pavement, running on the asphalt into oncoming steady traffic, and at Lamb’s Cross swing onto the old hedged track to Histon, not as straight as Watkins’, but old indeed for it has a name, Gun’s Lane, and goes on northwards to Rampton to become a two-mile causeway across what was the great fen of these parts. Probably as far as Ely. The track is cut up though by tractors and what looks like a cavalry of horse, the frozen mud like clinker underfoot. The water in the field ditch is frozen in layers like terraces along the contour of a hill. I come across the last melting snow bank, as forlorn as the last Antarctic ice-shelf. Blanketed horses in a paddock snuff warm breath at me.

The track is treed as I get towards the village but I dodge the edge estate and dive through an opening in the hedge through wasteland, along an unofficial path, more a parting of the grass, towards a remarkable for these parts circular and secret wood of large trees completely hidden from any road, but well-known it seems to local lads, for it opens out into a glade that they have fashioned into the craziest BMX and off-road biking place I’ve ever seen, littered with old crashed bikes and rusty off-roaders that have come a cropper on the sheer drop-offs and suicidal ramps. Deserted now of course, and I head back northwards, homeward, over open fields of beans just poking through and drooping under frost, gunshots banging at the sky in the distance. As I turn into Water Lane the day turns too, rapidly, dark and purple to the north and a sudden flood of sleet descends and turns into a shower of snow, with thick fat flakes falling straight down. Remarkable. And I’m just in time for breakfast. Ha.

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Filed under writing / rambles / landscape / nature

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