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Winter Wonderland in Plush

PUBLISHED: 10:06 06 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:39 20 February 2013

“On Higher Hill we walk towards the setting sun, all the while behind us the landscape gets darker and a sense of urgency begins to creep in”

“On Higher Hill we walk towards the setting sun, all the while behind us the landscape gets darker and a sense of urgency begins to creep in”

Photographer and archaeologist Colin Tracy goes for a trek through the snow covered landscape around Plush

Photographer and archaeologist Colin Tracy goes for a trek through the snow covered landscape around Plush

The track that leads up to the downs, normally white with chalk, is white with snow. Rising steeply up the side of the downs to the west of Plush and arcing north onto Watcombe Plain, the track is lined with young ash and beech trees that shine silver grey against the crystal clear, iridescent blue sky. The air is so cold that it hurts to breathe. The climb is enough to get the heart racing, and as we emerge through the gate into open ground near the top the wind hits us. All petty worries and irritations are stilled by the physical impact of the elements and the clarity and vividness of the immediate experience. Any bare flesh soon becomes numb, noses drip and eyes water.
The converging combe and valley in which Plush sits are luminous in the snow. Here and there we see the traces of the Celtic field systems; faint lines of lynchets highlighted by the low sun on the slopes of Watcombe Bottom and to the south of Watcombe Wood. Each line marking what was once the edge of an Iron Age field. I imagine how tough a winter such as this would have been some 2,500 years ago.
The snow here is 6-8 inches deep, enough to make walking a little more laboured, on the brow of the ridge the vastness of the Blackmoor Vale stretches out before us to the north. Soon we pick up the Wessex Ridgeway path, where snow is stuck to the north side of the trees and the undergrowth laden with white.

The view from the top of the ridge, as it drops towards the lane from Ball Hill, is magnificent. Here the ancient track down becomes sunken, worn by generations of passing feet and hooves. The clouds begin to pick up the reds, oranges and pinks of the sinking sun. Despite the quickening dusk we continue up the Ridgeway path towards Higher Hill. There is an urge in me to fill myself with this beauty; tomorrow it may be gone.
We walk towards the setting sun, behind us the landscape gets darker and a sense of urgency begins to creep in. We realise that the snow has covered the signs that should allow us to follow the path down to the village and in the dark we cannot see any footpath markers; the knot of anxiety grows.
There are footprints in the snow and in a moment of nave trust we follow them, knowing that in reality they could lead anywhere! In the semi-darkness we soon loose them so head across the fields in the general direction of the village. Its a relief when we eventually find the path down and reach the car, though by then it is almost completely dark.
Driving home we are left with a sense of awe from our experience. Maybe it is because this winter wonder is so short lived that it has such a magical quality but it is good to be reminded of our human frailty in these harsh but beautiful conditions.

Discover more of Colins photographs at


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