With Cornwall looming large at under 6 weeks away, I’ve been stepping up the walking. Trying to pick up my fitness and strength, particularly when carrying weight on my back is all part of convincing myself that I am prepared for this journey.
With that in mind, a stunning weather forecast for a Saturday, and a longing to be outside that comes with impending Spring, I plugged in my headphones, packed a bag and went for an evening hike up the hills to catch what promised to be a beautiful sunset. I wasn’t intending on a long hike, in fact quite the opposite. With running shoes strapped on, I wanted to test my speed and strength more than long distance stamina and as I locked up the car I set off at a fast pace towards the minor peak to the north.
The sun had already collapsed behind the shadow of the looming hills, and the chill in the air was welcome as I found my heart pounding at my initial pace. Keep pushing. The outline of the hills shadowed over the town below in a crisp, dark outline of the profiled rises and falls and a distant haze began to change hue as the rays of light travelled further and further through the earths atmosphere.
It didn’t take me long to ascend. Within 30 minutes I was breaking out of the shadow on to the well defined ridge line leading to the main summit. Pushing up the final steep climb the views became increasingly breathtaking. This walk is so familiar, I have done it countless times before. Yet the view from the top is never the same. Be it an idiosyncrasy in the colour of the sky, the clarity of the Welsh hills partially in view on the horizon, or the illuminated Bredon Hill tower in the distance to the east, I always find something new to focus on. The natural world is ever-changing, in perpetual motion that we cannot, and should never control. It runs its own course, bringing sunrise and sunsets for millions of years across this same peak before humans could even contemplate their beauty.
As the sun descended further in the haze-filled citrus sky, I descended to a familiar spot out of the wind and away from other hikers. Peace consumes the landscape along with the light as the sun drops further until there is nothing but blood red colour left in the remnants of natural light, night overcoming day for another 11 hours ahead. Giving in to the enveloping cold, a stiff breeze now whipping up the northeastern flank of the hills, I had to get moving and leave the stars to find their own route to the sky. With the first few distant suns flickering in the late evening light, I jogged my way down the track, encountering no other person on my entire descent. Lonely yes, peaceful of course, but fulfilling and morally grounding to have witnessed such a spectacle.
Sunsets and sunrises occur day in day out. They are the epitome of complacency. They are one of the most beautiful natural phenomena we can ever witness, I mean the sky turns funny colours after all! Yet we are often blind to this, and as I continue my isolated descent of one of the busiest hiking routes in the country, but a handful of people had made the effort to watch the sunset that night. It is a shame, however for those willing to put in the effort, I suppose the reward is there all the more in the knowledge that this is an experience shared by but a few. The city lights took force below, the wind cooling my arms as I quicken the pace to the car. As I reach the road and unlock my door, my body shaking from fatigue, I contemplate whether I’ll ever get tired of spending an evening like that.
Not a chance.
Ever different, ever inspiring, ever challenging; there is a no more fulfilling way to spend an evening than to chase the sun. All I have to do is wait 24 hours for the next one.