Thursday, November 06, 2008

Fog. All alone in the world.

Perhaps it was foolish of me to take the road that snakes across the top of the Long Mountain when there is a sensible alternative, but I do like to think that even at 10.00 o'clock at night the spirit of adventure lives on.

In the 5 years we've lived here this 8 mile stretch has wormed its way into my affections and, given the choice, that's the road I'll take for journeys to or from Shrewsbury. Like all love affairs it's irrational - common sense would take me along the valley bottom on a road which is fast and efficient but also carries more traffic. Up here on the spine of the mountain is solitude. It's unusual to meet more than a couple of vehicles along its length - 5 or 6 constitutes 'very busy'. I can dawdle along undisturbed taking in the verges, the hedgerows and the changing scenery and seasons. Wales falls away to the west and Shropshire's Blue Remembered Hills are to the east. I find, even in the wildest weather, a sense of stillness here atop the world. There's room to contemplate and collect one's thoughts and drift off into a state of blissful relaxation. Wait! Watch out! This is a road for heaven's sake and it definitely pays to stay alert.

As I climb up out of the village of Westbury, on to Vennington and through Vron Gate (where the old pub The Seven Stars is being reburbished) there is a hint of mist in the air; mist which thickens as the car climbs up the narrow road. The radio prattles amicably in the background, I am cocooned and warm. All is fine and dandy. As I drive past Dot and Dave's (I'm looking forward to their Christmas Lights again) and then past Mountain Farm I realise that my field of vision has become very limited indeed - the light from my headlights glares as it bounces back at me. The beams seem solid - carved out of light, almost as if some child had drawn them. Dipping them seems to help. Up at Nant-y-myssels the mist is thick fog, swirling grey flannel blankets of it. I am driving - and will drive for the next 5 miles or so - relying on the edge of the road to be my guide.I creep along, hunched over the wheel now, my eyes searching for the road under the lights' glare. Every so often a field gate or farm lane interupts the edge of the road and I have lost my guiding line. I could be anywhere, moving in shapeless, undefined space. As a driver, moving and not knowing where is a disturbing experience. My concentration is absolute. I am dis-orientated, though realise that I know more or less where I am from the shapes of the road sides and verges which I can see. This is some comfort.

Up on Heldre Hill - where the common land is - and a bleak old windswept place at the best of times - I'm going so slowly I stop. Curiousity gets the better of me. What's it like out there?

I roll the window down the better to look and listen, letting the cold wet air creep into the car and over my face. Without the engine it is an eery world indeed, not a sound to be heard, only muffled silence, oddly still. It is a night for imagining the ghostly shapes of the long forgotten peoples who once laid their kinfolk to rest on this hill. A sacred place for them; their tumuli are over to my right. It's a night when one might hear the tramp of a Legionnaire's boot as he marched from Forden Gaer to Wroxeter, cursing the deplorable weather and food of this benighted island and longing for the sighing pines and thyme scented hills of Rome.

What else might be in the shadows? It's better not to whisper 'Is there anybody there?' too loudly lest I conjure up some lonely wraith.... We won't go there.

I am utterly alone in a little fuzzy world of grey, surrounded by walls of fog. No light. No sound bar the thump of what must be my heart pumping. Nothing.

With a shiver and a flick of the key we're motoring again - slowly, as before. Gradually as the road drops down the hill I leave the fog behind and see the twinkle of house-lights in the distance. Back into the real world again it seems.

Edited 07.11.2008
My photos are not of course taken at night. Wanting to capture some of landscape's atmosphere, I nipped back in daylight with the camera.


Nikki-ann said...

Kerry has been shrouded in mist all week.... I'm wondering if it will ever lift!

Frances said...

Hello to you Mountaineer,

I have tried to send you this message once, and have had the server just depart into its own fog.

What I was trying to say was what a range you have. One day you are inspiring us to think of refurbishing old clothes with a fresh view. Much more imaginative that mere recycling.

And today, you take us on a drive into nowhere. Beautifully written, how the normally chosen path, with little traffic, turns into a lane into a place without time. It was marvelous that you could stop, grab your wits and your camera and capture those misty vistas to share with us.

I think that you were, by chance perhaps, given entry into a place that some others from times past might have stood, sat, wondered.
What a wonderful opportunity. I am also, of course, delighted that you did get home safely.

Thank you so much for giving us access to that mystery that you experienced.


Pam said...

10 o'clock and it was still so light out? You were very brave driving in the fog like that but I liked that you stopped and took it all in - those are great moments. Beautifully written as usual.

Lindsay said...

Lovely pictures and a well written post as usual.

Wipso said...

Please don't forget who does your sewing when you are famous with your writing. Wow that was really beautifully written. It really put the hairs up on the back of my neck while you were describing how it felt when you stopped and opened car door.

Pipany said...

I quite like a bit of fog, but loathe driving in it. So scary as ghosts seem to whip up in front of you and you can never be sure if there's something coming toward you. Hope you see sun soon (and I forgot to put the shoes on Isabella not me, though it didn't quite read like that did it!) xx

Nan said...

I would so love to have been in the passenger seat, but then it wouldn't have been quite as otherworldly with someone else in the car, would it? Beautifully written- could be the first words in a delicious mystery novel. But the car wouldn't have started again.

Woozle1967 said...

Glad you were safe - awful driving in fog, but I know what you mean about the urge to take that road instead of the main way. Hope the sun shines for you.xx

LittleBrownDog said...

Oooh, very atmospheric there, Mountainear. I was with you, hunched over the wheel of your car, hoping against hope that you wouldn't accidentally veer off into a field, never to be heard of again (well, of course you didn't, otherwise you wouldn't have been able to write about it).

I also didn't realise you were so near to Shrewsbury. Practically in England. Are those the Black Mountains, then you were driving over?

(I also, rather stupidly, found myself wondering what a reburbished pub might be like, then realised it must have been a typo. But then again, it might not be. Reburbished sounds like a lovely word...)


PS Excellent photos. Why is it that everybody else seems to be able to take good photos except me?

snailbeachshepherdess said...

That road is spooky in the day time! Lovely, beautiful views, gorgeous skies but always a silence that when you stop the only noise you can hear is your own heart beating - just that little bit faster!
Beautifully written.

Rachel said...

Mmmm, how evocative. I love fog; it throws me instantly back to being a five-year-old walking to a tiny village school past hedges filled with dewy spider webs, all sounds muffled, and a magical feeling of "anything might happen". I'm glad nothing did while you were driving!

elizabethm said...

Fabulous post mountainear. I feel as though I have driven with you. I too have an irrational attachment to a particular road which leads me to shop a little further away than I have tosimply because I love the drive along the edge of the hills.