In this tail end of January it’s easy to long for spring; some green shoots and dry paths. I’m tired of creating a whole load of laundry every time I go out to the forest. And I’m tired of discovery muddy paw prints on the carpet, despite repeated paw wipe downs. Where does all that mud come from?
But there is one advantage to this time of year that’s easy to overlook: the short days of winter mean that sunrise adventures are a little more attainable. They don’t involve dragging yourself from bed at some ungodly hour. Even if you wake after 7am it’s possible to be up and out, catching those first precious rays of light.
The window for these easy sunrise wins is fast closing, as the light pushes against the darkness a little earlier each morning. Last week, when the sunrise aligned with clear skies, we trundled our little van out to the back of the Wight for one of our favourite routes: The Pepperpot.
Quick side note: I mention sunrise runs like they’re a doddle. Please be assured that whilst driving said van in the blue early light I was full of the usual trepidation, knowing all too well the slippery mud and steep climbs to come. But I’ve done just enough running now to realise it’s best to bury such thoughts deep down inside and simply get on with it. Because never once have I regretted being out there once I’ve started (after that first kilometre which is just bloody hard whichever way you approach it).
The Pepperpot run is a great route for chasing sunrises. We park behind the village shop, still dark and quiet, and set off across the fields and up the spine of St Catherine’s Down. We’re never quite sure where we’ll be when the sun’s rays reach us, but it’s rosy greeting is a reassuring certainty. As the blue light loses its icy edge we reach the Hoy Monument and those familiar grand views.
We leave the steep and slippery climb behind, on to some firm flat ground, pacing along with the sun on our faces, passing the farms in the folds of the hills below. Looking back to the north, the Medina valley stretches towards the mainland, while north-west we watch the sun spill across field and forest, towards the chalk cliffs beyond.
Up to the Pepperpot, the top most point of our route, pausing only for a moment before heading full tilt across the stubbly fields and badger lanes towards Niton and Blackgang. As we push along the coast we wave to the mainland, also soaking up its morning rays, reflected in those mirrored chalk cliffs.
The sun truly up now, we swing back again below the Pepperpot, along that flat stretch, past the Hoy Monument and hurling ourselves down the steep muddy path, embracing the unavoidable reality of muddy wet feet and tired out legs.
When we return to the van the village shop has opened it’s doors, welcoming us in to its sunny cafe, complete with requisite dog, happy to be best friends with us, the first two customers of the day.