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Yew in fog on Wenlock Edge  photograph by Maria Nunzia @Varvera

23 December 2015

Floating in the fog free of meanings

Guardian Country Diary, Wenlock Edge

by Paul Evans, first published in 

The Guardian 23 December 2015


Ayew tree looms in the fog, a brooding presence hovering in space above the cliff, not of this world. One of a cluster of wild yews, old and stunted from growing out of limestone and an obstinacy that refuses to recognise time as we measure it, this tree floats free of meanings we impose. Also free and unbidden, the fog settles like a mood over the Edge. It is myopic, melancholic, a dark humour yet strangely comforting.


Recent storms have shredded the last leaves from the ash trees; saplings rise like bones and the old ones bear dangles of ash keys as if a flood tide had washed them there. Even the last golden oaks in the dale have been snuffed out by gales and their skeletons form an inner architecture of the fog down there.


Krr-krr-krr: a raven makes rapid calls flying through the mizzle and is crossed by another with gulping hiccup cries. This crossing of ravens, ominous in the fog, resonates with the crossing of something beyond ourselves, something wild in the days around the solstice. But it’s just another muffled, disembodied idea, a spectre floating about in the fog.


Apart from distant traffic drone there is little sound other than wood pigeons fleeing the ivy rigging of trees, their wings like wet rags on glass. Even the robins are quiet, as birds wrap themselves in their own mists.


Now, from the rock, through the yew tree on the cliff top, threading among white lichen, green stonecrop, coppery grass, inside the orbs of moss spore capsules, themselves encased in raindrop baubles, another time is coming, another reality as distant from us as that which moves in the fog.

This rock has known hundreds of millions of years, so the difference between the evergreen, ever living yew tree and the ephemeral raindrops on moss is trivial. What does a year mean to them?


“Damp dark days before Christmas,” shudders a neighbour hurrying home up the street. Yet these are wonderful times, shifting through long nights and murky days, between years and seasons. These are damp dark days of metamorphosis, when one time’s reality dissolves into a mysterious fog of transformation into another.







Paul Evans is the author of Field Notes From The Edge, Journeys Through Britain's Secret Wilderness and Herbaceous: 

Field Notes From The Edge by Paul Evans

Field Notes From The Edge a Journey into Britain's Secret Wild...through the in-between spaces of Nature – such as strandlines,mudflats, cliff tops and caves – where one wilderness is on the verge of becoming another and all things are possible.

- See more at:


Herbaceous by Paul Evans

Herbaceous is gardening with words. It is a book of audacious botany and poetic vision which asks us to look anew at our relationship with plants and celebrates their power to nourish the human spirit. - See more at: 

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