Last night I walked to Markway Hill in the New Forest to watch the sunset, part of my Winter Forest Sunsets challenge to visit all twenty-two high points in the national park, witnessing and celebrating as the envelope of our days is gently eased apart.
I chose Markway Hill because I left home a little later than I should’ve done to catch sunset. Markway Hill is right next to a main road: easy to access in a hurry.
Or so I thought.
The car park was separated from the trig point by two kilometres of bog.
After going in ankle deep, I chose not to pursue the waterlogged path across Clayhill Bottom. I struck out for higher ground of (no joke) Scrape Bottom and immediately went in up to my knee.
I had no option but to persevere, climbing as best I could as the ground — if you can call it that — shook beneath me. I’ll admit: it was hard to admire the shivvering miracle of mossy abundance that turned water into soil while I myself was sinking to my doom.
With sodden boots squelching at every step, I traversed the hills through heather, bracken and gorse so deep and so thick that it unravelled the laces on my right boot. This was proper Lewis Carroll snicker-snack Jabberwock territory.
It took me forty five minutes to cover those two kilometres and it was long dark by the time I got to Markway Hill, whatever sunset there might have been totally obscurred by clouds of mist settling over the mire.
It’s fair to say that the New Forest schooled me last night: not as mild mannered as all those picture perfect ponies would have you think.
On top of all that, Markway Hill is, of course, right by the main road. The trudge back to my car not total fun either, blinded by the booming rush of electricity and gasoline.
And do you know what I thought as I stumbled eyeless along the roadside verge, unsure whether my next invisible step would pierce me on the needle pins of a gorse bush or right into the path of an oncoming Volvo?
Give me thigh-deep blanket bog over this!
It’s funny. I’ve watched three sunsets from three different high points in the New Forest this week and none of them have been much of anything: a gradual dimming of the lights.
But every morning’s sunrise, watched, like now, from a window overlooking the ocean, has been determined to dazzle and delight, the sun splitting the sky into colour strips of orange and blue, white and fire.
Maybe I should flip my Winter Forest Sunset quest to the morning.