Country diary: yellow gorse reflects brilliance among the withered bracken

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Overlooking an expanse of darkening land, the south flank of Kit Hill catches light from the declining sun, now sinking towards far-off St Austell Bay. At the end of this unusually clear and sunny afternoon, dog walkers linger in the unexpected warmth, protected from the cold wind as they stroll along the trampled muddy path that glints with sparkles of granite. On either side, yellow gorse reflects brilliance among the withered bracken, heather, bramble and grass stalks, spun with gilded spider webs. Hollows, pits and dumps (relics from this once laboriously mined and quarried hill) shelter still-upright ferns; a bare wind-pruned thorn becomes a temporary perch for a throng of starlings, en route to their roost, and stunted hollies are berry free, unlike the increasingly rare and large specimens that survive on hedgerows downhill and nearer home.

Late sun on gorse below Kit Hill stack.

Before daylight fades, walkers in this country park pause to admire the long views that extend across mists rising from the Lynher Valley and the golden haze engulfing Callington and its pasty factory, towards the faint southern horizon of the sea. Tower blocks at Devonport and even a naval frigate in the Sound are momentarily distinct, side-lit by the lowering sun. To the east, Dartmoor, now snow free, gradually loses its afterglow of pink as the sun disappears behind a shallow band of cloud – a phantom range beyond the dimness of Bodmin Moor.

On the north side of the ornate and monumental summit stack, some of the previous night’s ice remains around clumps of grass between the clutter of rough stones and fenced-off mine shafts. Below, on the opposite side of meandering reaches of the Tamar, the gloomy patchwork of fields in Devon is already drab and colourless, with just a hint of luminous white on a frost-prone meadow by Slew Wood.

Back and around the hill, most visitors have departed from the car park and, away to the south, the tidal river by Weir Quay is a glimmering, sky-reflecting lake. Homewards, and from 500 feet lower down, our eastern horizon is marked by red lights on North Hessary Tor’s communication mast. Tomorrow I may gather a few sprigs of berried holly that have survived attention from blackbirds after the surfeit of fallen apples.

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