• A white mantle on Black Hill

    We had a very thin dusting of snow here a couple of days back & on past experience of the last three years that might be all we can truly call winter. Looking west to the Black Mountains yesterday morning I could see the ridge with its distinctive step of Hay Bluff at the northern end sparkling bright white in the morning sun. With the promise of a week or two of grey, gloom and rain to come I was easily tempted & by 10 I was gingerly weaving down the icy narrow lanes above Craswall looking for that classic view of Cat's Back Ridge and Black Hill. Of course Black Hill will be forever remembered from that remarkable book by Bruce Chatwin. And, if you've ever read the book, this will be a familiar landscape, little altered over the last couple of hundred years.

    I could see that grim weather was rumbling in so was grateful to get the sunlight I craved. The bitter wind whipped the leading edge of the storm over the nose of Black Hill with puddles of sunlight scudding down the flanks of the hill, picking out every little contour. Hard to drag myself away, but I had a tree to check out before the light went.

    Some twenty years ago I photographed a characterful old ash pollard on a track below Cat's Back Ridge and I was keen to see how it had fared over that time. As you can see it's still in fine fettle. Nobody has cut it back since I first found it, so it makes me wonder what the future holds for this fine old tree. It is certainly very exposed up here on the hills so I hope it doesn't get wrenched apart. Moreover, let's hope ash dieback doesn't find it.

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Archie Miles photography

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