It is New Year's Eve and we are at Avebury-to Mudhop, certainly: but we also have an underlying reason to be here on this day.
Our first stop though is West Kennet Long Barrow for a good stretch of the legs after the drive up here. It is a day that can be described as 'crisp', though not so crisp as to involve frost. Mind you, it's not far off this level of crispiness-we are both throwing fashion sense to the wind (not that we seem to have any of this commodity in the first place) and displaying ourselves to the world in all of our winter wrappings-essential against the freezing wind which is cutting across the Marlborough Downs. So; crisp in the sense that without our thermals parts of our bodies would be shrivelling up!
The walk up the hill to the long barrow sufficiently jump-starts our circulatory systems to ignore the aforementioned wind and, as ever, the stones give us a warm welcome. The short time we spend here this afternoon charges our batteries ready to fill the rest of the daylight hours with trudging through muddy fields, up and down hills, surrounding ourselves with this most enigmatic of landscapes and building up an appetite.
And due to a rather devious bit of forward planning we have ensured that the apex of this appetite building will coincide with our arrival at 'The Red Lion'. Here, for a small fee (actually about twenty quid), our Mudhopping metamorphoses into New Year's Eve relaxing, warming up and stuffing our faces full of food. All in preparation for our underlying reason to be here today......
...... Which is the Moon. For not only is it New Year's Eve, it is also a full moon and not only is it a full moon, it is a blue moon. As we both seem to possess a somewhat slightly off the elliptical approach to life, we had decided a few days ago that we wanted to view this moon whilst we stood on top of West Kennet Long Barrow. With this in mind we had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast every day of the preceding week, noting its predictions waver between snow, sleet, rain, dry, clouds and clear skies with each changing hour. By the the time we had left the house that morning only one thing was for certain; it might or might not be too cloudy to see the moon that night. So our campaign slogan for the day was 'Sod It, We Are Going Anyway'!
When we finally wrenched our well fed bodies out of the Red Lion to head towards our Sod It the moon was well up and playing peek-a-boo with us from behind broken clouds, clouds which were thickening fast. So much so that by the time we make our second walk up the hill to the Long Barrow the moon was completely hidden and we could tell that there was little chance of us seeing it that night. Boo! But there was other magic in the air for us; stood on that mound, with the great stones which screen the entrance to the tomb below us, we looked up at the patch of sky which was illuminated by the moon. Even from behind this thick cover she made her presence known as the light caught the edges of the huge black cloud giving it the sheen of burnished steel. Further away, where the cloud was patchier, this same light was giving the appearance of a foam flecked sea washing across the sky. Back on Earth we were surrounded by the darkness, a stillness and great calm as the wind, though still cold, dropped to a breeze. It was a very primitive atmosphere, a rare moment to stand and enjoy-and if some barrow wights had crawled out of the tomb to join us we would not have been at all surprised. But the best bit was saved for when we tried to leave.
We were sixty miles from home and the temperature was dropping, not wishing to run the risk of icy country roads it came time when we knew we must leave. But when we started to make our way back down the side of the barrow our legs suddenly made it clear that they were reluctant to do this-there was something more for us here tonight. Not knowing what this something was, and needing to get our bodies moving again, we decided to take a walk along the top of the barrow to its far end. Once there we turned to walk back (there being little else we could do) and then it happened. Rather like the cheesy ending straight out of Hollywood, at that moment a great split appeared in the thick cloud and the Moon was fully exposed in all of her glory. For a few minutes she did her 'doth shine as bright as day' bit, casting her full light upon us and creating long shadows over the countryside. This is why we came and, unexpectedly, we were not to leave without seeing it-giving rise to two loonies on a hill on a cold dark night, grinning for the fun in it all.
Happy New Year Folks!