To the Temple of the Winds… (also stories about kindness and another dragon snippet)

And here we are, almost a month into 2015, and I actually have a new release to get excited about (what’s that, Amy? Something new? From you? Are you feeling all right?). I have a bittersweet little contemporary story in Dreamspinners’ upcoming anthology Random Acts of Kindness. I loved the idea of the anthology and was determined to write for it. Neil and Monty’s story is about family, impending bereavement and finding the courage to live a little even after you’ve lost your way. The anthology looks like a lovely little collection and you can read more about it here (or click the picture).

One of my vague non-quite-resolutions this year was to make the effort to get outside more at weekends, to walk or play tourist. In accordance with that, I took myself up to the Temple of the Winds on Sunday. The forecast had suggested it would be bright and very cold, which suited me very well as the trail is a muddy one and I thought a good hard frost would help. I also quite fancied seeing the heather and gorse laced with frost.

It turned out to be mild and cloudy, but it was still a lovely walk. I followed the Serpent’s Trail long distance path, which is one of the sillier ones in the south-east, as it manages to trace a snaky 64 mile route between Haslemere and Petersfield, two towns which are about twelve miles apart. The first eight miles or so takes you up and over Blackdown, the great down that towers over the little market town of Haslemere.

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Haslemere is a pretty little town, with an excellent independent bookshop and more quirky little gift shops than parking spaces. These days, its a very expensive place to live, but it still has a sleepy, cozy feel.

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From the town, it’s a long, slow climb uphill between patches of woodland and fields, with views back over the downs.

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This is Tennyson’s Lane, which is the road access to the top of Blackdown. It’s named after a previous owner of the land, one Alfred Tennyson, who was also known for writing a poem or two 😉 Tennyson spent his summers here. He was one of a large group of writers who descended on the villages around Haslemere after the railway came. There were about 65 of them living scattered across these hilltops, including at various points Christina Rossetti, Arthur Conan Doyle, HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Flora Thompson, and George Eliot. My own ancestors were also to be found in close proximity to the poet, clearing out the grates and washing the crockery (several of them worked as house servants in Tennyson’s house, Aldworth).

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Tennyson was known to love walking across Blackdown. It now belongs to the National Trust, who maintain the common. It is criss-crossed by paths.

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The escarpment is very steep. Unfortunately the camera flattens out these angles, but the trees in the foreground were several metres below where I was standing.

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Blackdown is the highest hill in Sussex and the third highest in the southeast of England. 280m above sea level (920ft) and 191m (627ft) above the valley below.

At the end of the down is the Temple of the Winds. Despite the grand name, there’s nothing there save an ornate stone bench and a view south over the Weald. On a clear day you’re supposed to be able to see the sea, 40ish miles away. I’ve never managed to get up there on a clear day, but even the misty winter version makes the climb worthwhile.

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Looking east from the Temple of the Winds, there was a brief hint of sunshine.

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The path then leads back along the western edge of the down. I rather fancied this old tree looked like an owl.

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The gorse is in flower! According to old country wisdom, that means it’s kissing season.

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And slowly, slowly, the paths winds it way down the far side of the hill. Looking at this makes me want to come back in early summer, when the beeches will be in new leaf.

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Eventually the path comes back out on the road back into Haslemere. In the past, I’ve continued onwards over the next stretch of heath, where moss monsters lurk under every tree, but I decided that in winter discretion was the better part of valour and turned back into town in plenty of time to finish walking before I lost the light.

And finally, have another dragon drabble. Tarn and his kin are now in council following the first disastrous encounter of the Dragon Wars…

“The Shadow sends a message,” Tarnamell told his gathered council. “It makes this suggestion: that both sides fight only in the guise of men. Your thoughts, kin and beloved of my kin.”

Markell spoke first, graver than usual. “At least we cannot bring down mountains when we walk as men.”

“Nor can we win a swift victory,” Arden countered hotly. “It commits us, and our hoards, to a slow war. We’ll lose too many.”

A noise by the door made them all swing round. Sharnyn was clinging to the doorframe, human face blanched and eyes shadowed. “But never so many at a single blow,” he rasped. “Never so many simply as a passing strike, by sheer accident. If we are all men, each one of us has a chance to fight back. Death should not come burning from the sky to bring the mountains down, on—”

“Nice job sedating him, great physician,” Isara muttered, but Hal was already moving forward to catch Sharnyn as he slid down the doorframe.

“A thousand cuts can kill a man, just more slowly than a single blow,” Arden said, but it was clear from his voice that he knew he would not persuade them.

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2 Responses to To the Temple of the Winds… (also stories about kindness and another dragon snippet)

  1. Congrats on the new story! It sounds like a great anthology.
    So lovely to see more of your photos. The trees make some fascinating shapes.

    • amyraenbow says:

      Thanks. It’s such a great concept for an anthology. Dreamspinner come up with such great anthology ideas.

      I love winter trees. That said, I’d love to redo this walk in late spring, when the beeches are just coming into leaf.

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