Wild strawberries and summer showers

THIS has to be the loveliest spot in Dorset. With chickens pecking round an old shepherd’s hut and wild strawberries growing at the roadside, it seems too perfect – as if it’s been designed by Cath Kidston.

It’s humid and hazy today atop Eggardon Hill, but that doesn’t stop the panoramic views taking our breath away.

Wildflowers stud the ramparts, and we think you can probably see the sea on a clear day. The undulating fields are like Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, The Land of Counterpane. Sheep cling to the ramparts of the old hill fort.

At the far end of the ridge, we plunge to the bottom and jump over a fence. Giant butterflies flap past. We pass a large cow farm and the sky is split by a young buzzard’s cries. It shrieks at another bird in a neighbouring tree. They fly low and slow, calling to each other across the valley.

With Eggardon Hill to our left, the lane is splashed with scarlet lords and ladies. We turn right across a field stuffed with clover and run for cover under a large oak when a summer shower drizzles down. Suddenly, everything is greener.

The next field is sloping, golden corn. At the bottom, a young deer sits very still, with huge ears and a sad face.

It looks at one, then both of us, and suddenly twigs it should run.

The Spyway pub’s not open, so we turn back towards Eggardon Hill. Rabbits flank the hedgerows. The chequered green and yellow fields put me in mind of Alice’s chessboard journey in Through The Looking Glass. Looking over our shoulders, we can see that more rain is in pursuit.

We pass a large property that has gone to unusual lengths to keep out the deer. And crashing into the next field, we see why – we almost trip over one, tawnily tumbling away.

We go past North Eggardon Cart House and traipse upwards, past startlingly yellow barley fields.

Crickets are strumming and the cows lie down contentedly on the hillside. Another tawny shape bounces past. Deer? Or a Big Cat? We squint through the binoculars. It’s a fox! It pauses on the ridge, white brush pointing down. Then it’s gone.

By now we are slapping at horseflies and still trying to climb higher than the raincloud behind us. Sheep stand mournful sentry on the sides of a huge grassy crater.

A hare leaps on the chalky bit at the bottom. At the top, a herd of steers advance on us with intent. I squeal and we hotfoot it out of there, back to the car.


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