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The day's vanishing again, but I'm going out – for certain! Realizing my kit is still in pieces from travelling a couple of weeks ago I quickly find and stow the gear in my Winter pack. Then out the door, heading west from the town for the last of the daylight.
Yes, it really has been four months since I wrote one of these. I've been rather busy. And as there's too little left of the day to think about a more elaborate walk, so I meditatively follow the well trodden path to Crouch Hill.
I keep meaning to go for "a walk". I have walked across London, Birmingham, Shrewsbury and a few other places; and a couple of weeks ago I even camped out at the southern end of the Cambrian Mountains for a week – but for work, not a walk.
No matter, I'm here now. Racing west to find the sun before it disappears.
Climbing Crouch Hill I turn to look at the dark shadows of the sunset reaching across the Cherwell valley – the ironstone spires of Banbury, King's Sutton and Middleton Cheney glowing in the low-angle red light. Even the USAF's radomes are glowing pink at Croughton.
Autumnal landscape: USAF Croughton from Crouch Hill
(King's Sutton spire centre with Croughton's radio mast above and left, radomes above and right)
I climb to the summit, emerge from the scrub near the trig-point, to see the last beams of bright sunlight skipping across the brambles and willowherb. Then it was gone, replaced by a technicolor cloudscape that went on for at least an hour – till the darkening sky gathering from the east slowly erased it.
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Wandering down Salt Way, the floor of the track dappled with orange and yellow sycamore leaves that shine with the last light of the day, I notice something new… silence.
I haven't just missed 'the fall'; the countryside is going to sleep, ready for the long cold of Winter. Apart from the odd pheasant startled from the hedgerow, and the distant noises of Banbury, it's completely silent.
I take a long pause at Giant's Caves. It's now getting dark, the colours have gone from the clouds overhead, and only a thin band of colour remains behind the fringe of trees along the ridge of The Bretch. The air is cool, and getting perceptibly cooler in the clear evening sky. But draped from every tree, and flowing down the slope, the heady scent of Winter fills my chilled nostrils.
After a while reality takes hold; I turn east and head back into town. As I enter the suburbs of the town the noise drowns the last of the silence, and the acid yellow of the street lights overwhelms the welcoming dark of the fields. I've really missed all this – must come back soon!