May is here, bringing a little warmth and a lot of daylight. We got out to ride near Marlborough, requiring a trip of twenty-five miles by trailer. That's just enough to get through a complete CD in each direction - Kate Rusby on the way out and Gillian Welch on the way back.
The drive out was peculiar. I felt quite detached from the world, sufficiently so to pay particular attention to driving. Last week I spent an exhausting three days on a residential training course together with a couple of full days in the office. Last night I slept nine hours solidly then drank a couple of mugs of very strong coffee to wake up, so weird feelings aren't a great surprise. But the training concerned psychology, reinforced by analysis, group discussions and a session with role players. It did feel as if I was being probed deep within. Liberated fragments of my unconscious were bubbling near to the surface. So it will probably take a few days to reach a point of relative normality. Expect some vivid dreaming.
On the hills we crossed a racehorse gallop. The sign warns that racehorses gallop between dawn and mid-day. We were later than that. The rails enclosing the gallop have sliding sections to close the trail when the racehorses are coming. Presumably someone drives up at the appropriate moment to do this. Previously we've seen racehorses pass at speed from just beyond the barrier, so I know that Brena can be trusted to remain calm.
Cattle grazed in the bottom of the valley of the rocks, lying down to chew cud amongst the ancient sandstone blocks. Most had calves, which lay close, many flat out asleep. We walked quietly along the trail, taking care not to disturb the cattle, knowing that cows can become aggressive in defence of their calves. A couple of cows languidly clambered to their feet but otherwise the beasts ignored Brena and I.
A sign at the gate where the trail entered the valley warned that a bull was in the field too. I spotted him relaxing on his belly, larger than the cows and even lazier. Normally bulls aren't permitted on pastures crossed by public trails. At least in the case the farmer had fixed a helpful notice to the gate giving practical advice, which chiefly involved what to do (and not do) if one happened to be walking a dog. Most people walking out here would have come from nearby towns, and their kind tend to be quite ignorant about the ways of livestock.
The valley of the rocks never ceases to amaze me. It's such a remarkable place, ancient and unique, timeless, bleak but beautiful.
The character of this strange survivor changes with the weather: mysterious in the mist; harsh in the rain; enthralling in sun. In every circumstance it nourishes the imagination.
This old landscape is scattered with fragments of a deep, distant past. Rock-strewn meadows, tangled woods, dry ravines, prehistoric earthwork, exposed ridge tracks and grassy drove roads: they are all found here. There are so many places to explore, and so much variety to absorb through successive visits to each location. The coming summer will be busy.
Today I received tranquillity most of all as we traversed trails where no-one else seemed to be walking or riding. I think that was just what my soul needed after the turbulence of the past week. A quiet point on the turning world. A still backwater along a tumbling river. A sheltered stretch along a rough and stormy trail. It was a good ride, a therapeutic ride.