Snowy silence on the winter hills

The South Downs rise above the plain like a giant inland iceberg, stark white above the emerging green of the weald.  

All those who come here today leave their story in the snow:   a farmer in his tractor, a lone mountain biker, a cross-country skier, a handful of walkers.  Fox, dog, bird and rabbit tracks criss-cross the hilltops.  IMG_0803

The snowdrifts are 18 inches deep, blown into crested waves by the biting east wind.  The snowfields are silent and cold.  The sheep cluster round their food dump like woolly refugees.

From Ditchling Beacon to Blackcap is pure white all the way, three miles of silent winter.

In the car park, hunched men are trying to tow a truck from a snowdrift. Along the ridge, the Downs stretch away to a grey horizon.

A thin fox trots into a thicket, glistening red in a world of white.  A kestrel quarters the covered fields in vain.  A single drop of blood stains the snow.  These are hungry days for the hill creatures.

To the right, the white hills roll away to the sea.  Sunshine occasionally breaks through, but, out of practice, is quickly defeated.  Away to the left, the flat fields of the weald are growing greener by the hour.   The sky is heavy grey, threatening more snow which never comes.

The snow is perfect for cross-country skiing, with enough of an icy crust to glide across.  The undulating terrain is perfect too, calling you on into the face of the easterly wind and then blowing you home.    25012013213

Following fox tracks across virgin snow, standing, staring, gliding: it’s an unbeatable experience.

The hills are magnificent, silent, cold.   As the rain sweeps through in the days to come, the skiers’ dream will turn back to muddy reality and white will give way to green.  But what a day to remember.


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