Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The Forest in Dark December Mist

The Haldon Hills are like a dream. The main difference being that in the Haldon Hills, any attempt to go to the lavatory is generally successful.

I half expected the paths to be all mud and mist. But this is the Haldon Hills and the Forest paths, so of course it was always going to be more than that. The path begins (where I join it) not far from the Belvedere, and so we took that road first, through the black ironwork gate, and past the picturesque bridge, seemingly part of some lost folly landscape. The road wound up toward the strange white apparition, just like a nightmare (rather than its usual fairytale), the ivory of the tower gaining in snowy intensity as one got nearer, until it resolved into the familiar tower. Familiar? Could anything in that light, all ill-defined and white on white look familiar? No, and yet of course I knew the tower's name. Lawrence Castle or the Haldon Belvedere. A light was on over the door, making it even more dream/nightmare-like.
After that, we returned to the main road and turned into the bridle way. And then the climb up to the right begins, and one enters - as if the Belvedere hadn't introduced it already - into another world. The pines soared into the mist, darker than other heavy mists I'd seen. There was no view on the ridge, but it didn't matter, as the whole path from the crocodile (carved log in the ditch) past the summerhouse ('play sculpture') had passed in a beautiful dream, the soft edges and surreal tones of light and shade muffling all awareness of chill or mud. Trance in movement rather than winter walk.

It was too muddy to go on the 'adventure cycle trail' path which had turned into a stream, so instead, we took the track (more a forestry commission road) which turns to the 'Butterfly Trail', and loops up to the Hawk Observation space.
The darkness of the thick mist through the pines here was not heavenly (like the beginning of the high path from the bridleway that climbs above the escarpment) but demonic. The gloom dripped between the forest trees darkening into perspectives that looked like evil things from old folktales were lurking there.
Where we crossed the Dartmoor-esque bridge, the water was foaming it had been so wet. Further on where another stream crossed under the road in a pipe, we saw foam banked up in a pile - it was frothy - and bizarrely, warm to the touch. More like whipped milk on coffee than bubbles in a bath. It dissolved like kindly soft ice on the skin.

Passing a huge stump covered in vivid moss and electric ferns, perhaps those ferns which were sheltered or near a lot of water didn't need to turn to orange bracken like most of the ferns? But the stump, so architectural and leaning on a sudden steep curve of land was so devastatingly eye-catching, the greens so sharp against the white gallery-walls of mist, that nature was showing how it alone was the inspiration both for amazing installations and floral decoration for big events (think the designer Daniel Ost).

Back down the hill, words for colour failed to detail or describe the thousand shades of dark burgundy pastel grey, and all the livid darknesses toned to pastel by the mist. At the end my boots were wet and spoke of mud, but having walked through a dried ice dream of cloud and a thousand paintings of tones and shadows, or rather a thousand old black and white film stills hand tinted with unreal pastels, I could say nothing of mud. I had hardly seen it.

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