May Hill

Grand beings move across the landscape. Giant elemental figures-out of the scale of my understanding: I walk among kings it seems up here. Nearly two months have slipped past since I was last outside. October sunlight floods about me; the sense of scale soars-streaming wind flings at me in an ocean of blue air. I take gulps, marvel, and begin to feel the replenishment, that sense of being refilled (re-fuelled), that big views always bring me. I am weary and have been convalescing. Mingled with the heady notes of summer are reminders of the coming winter: the unmistakeable tang of decay is led by the pervasive minor key of browning bracken: a swift breath through the nose hits the back of the throat like wood smoke (it never works with a second breath!) and is a statement of arrival in the moment: I am here. I feel it. It is good.

Around me the summer remains: enthusiastic fresh new growth which always comes with the autumn rains, belies the fading grandeur of the bigger seasonal shift. The turf, whilst new and green, now has gleaming peroxide highlights which quiver and shake in a wind which chills the hands. Away from this bold wind the summer returns: the turf is dry and supremely comfortable; soft scents of grasses play about me as I stare into the uninterrupted blue above. The top of May Hill is dominated by its crown of pines, visible for considerable, scale-confused distances. The great columns flex and whisper to one another as you move amongst them: and the feeling is that you have wandered into a hall of kings. You can listen, or you can leave, neither matters. Somehow they communicate with the elements of light, air and time and the conversation they enjoy is insistent and other-worldly, utterly unconcerned with the (slightly over-awed) interloper below. Their talk sounds like waves on shingle-deeper than the swishing gravel sounds of the stand of larches lower down the hill- compelling, mysterious and magical. I have no access to these voices; I hear, but can only long to understand; theirs is a colloquy at an entry point into deep time. As I listen, my eye is drawn out across the blue grey haze: the Severn coils magnificently, silver light from its big meanders shines out, connecting sea, air and land with rivers of light; the great and ancient Forest of Dean dominates the slopes, oaks flourish in thick green curds, above the man-made pastures below which are bare, insipid almost, in comparison. Grand beings slide easily between time and space; aeons pass.

I spot a big falcon and creep forward for a better view, she is big, but I really can not place her. As soon as she flies the dark wing tips and rich russet of her back are instantly recognisable – I have been misled again by the distorting scale of this place. But as I watch her fly and hover I marvel at her size-certainly the biggest kestrel I have ever seen; confidence, authority and mastery flow off her wings in streams of silver and gold; she is queen of her realm and for the briefest of moments I can hear her conversation with the wind.


About ThePeregrineFiles

Enthusiast. Father of five, Deputy Head, Academic, ex Head of English, writer, grower of old-fashioned roses, wild swimmer. Exploring convergences of place and moment in my writing; constantly fascinated by the way that a particular place at a particular time creates its own unique resonance.
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4 Responses to May Hill

  1. jo says:

    your feelings and emotions about May Hill have really been captured in your writing ,I found it beautiful and very evocative of high places in Dorset, thank you

  2. Emma Easy says:

    Hello. I’ve just stumbled across your blog. It’s fantastic. I love how aware you are of your senses, and how much you pull from each of them. Especially taste: you don’t see that very often.

    If you’re at all interested in contributing a wee post for the Earthlines Review ( please get in touch – I’d love to hear from you!

    • Thank you, I really appreciate your encouraging, positive, comments about ThePeregrineFiles. I am very enthusiastic about being involved with ‘Earthlines’ in some way – will email you directly. Sean

  3. So beautiful! That last line: ‘for the briefest of moments I can hear her conversation with the wind’ has such an impact… There is so much I love about this rich and absorbing piece of nature writing. You have captured perfectly that wonderfully overwhelming feeling – and rush to the senses – on returning to the great outdoors after a long period spent confined. I so recognise that sense of release working its way through the weariness. Being ‘refilled/ refuelled’ describes it exactly.

    I love the ‘Grand beings’ – the ‘Giant elemental figures’ moving across the landscape, expanding awareness to the larger shifts of nature around us… You capture so much in your words.

    Beautiful moment seeing the kestrel – so reminded me of my moment watching the kestrel you saw in my photo, with May Hill in view. I took it from high up on Crickley Hill Country Park – the kestrel suspended in the air just a few feet from us, on our level, with the steep fall of the valley immediately below. A magical moment. I watched with Gerard Manley Hopkins’ ‘Windhover’ echoing so powerfully in my mind!

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts…


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