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Upturned

Crossing the bridge over the river the thick cold mist bites. Back in the village frozen droplets clung to the trees lining the road out. The cemetery across the field dissolving in the low cloud. It’s the kind of cold that freezes your sinuses and makes your eyes water. The grey sky is flat and dense, sitting on the land, sucking the luminosity from the world. I follow the small rivers across the flood plains to the edge of the limestone hills. As I climb the light sharpens into bright sunshine as the cloud settles below me. Luminous moss and lichen clings to ancient stone walls. The sun chases the frost into the shadows. Steam rises from the warmed griddle of a raked field. Keep climbing, past the war memorial at the summit, freewheel onto the undulations of the plateau. Navigate from memory and signposts. Trees cast tiger stripe shadows. Not a breath of wind, golden leaves hang still from branches. A buzzard lazily, unhurriedly, drifts along the road ahead. The landscape eases away in all directions, the vales between the hills turned translucent by indigo shadows. The gorge usually hidden exposed by the mist that spills over the top as if filled with plaster of Paris, tip the world upside down and tap it on the bottom and out falls an inverted model of the valley the river has scored through the Jurassic rock over millennia. Sit and listen to the midday bells that chime from the holy city in the rocks. Slowly pedal towards the edge of the upland and drop back into the mist. Pull the buff up around my ears, zip the jacket up as far as it goes. Follow the big river home.

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