Walking in the woods at daybreak. A simple spartan ritual; a heavenly indulgence.
A circuit of four or five miles from the door of the house I grew up in, I've walked it hundreds of times over the years.
Coal trains once rocked and rumbled along the railway north of the woods. Then after bitter times the mines closed and the tracks were lifted, leaving only old ballast slowly reclaimed by grass, between blazing banks of August willowherb. In later years the track bed became a hardcore path, then a tarmaced cycle way.
Progress. All around, cars multiplied, and houses, and new roads, supermarkets, retail parks, more aircraft overhead, computers, commuters and offices, more stuff and more stress. The woods conceal the distant beginnings of the long boom. There are hidden mine shafts and tunnels where coal was extracted by hand.
But up here I can still find what I'm looking for. So can foxes. badgers, roe deer, and a host of birds, keeping the neighbourhood in touch with itself.
After months in the city the first thing I notice is not the silence, it's the sound - of living non-human things.
Wintering curlew wheel in to feed amongst the winter wheat, with sparse cries.
The magic hour is fading into broad daylight, and it's time to go.