Blowing away the cobwebs

There is a spot near us on the North Wessex Downs where the wind whips across the top of the hills, sending trees swaying and children bent over as they battle against it to reach the top. It's also the site of Combe Gibbet, erected in 1676 to hang the murderous lovers George Broomham and Dorothy Newman. The one that stands today is a replica, but it's a grisly reminder of the past.

Blowing away the cobwebs

The path at the top is littered with milky puddles, sunken into the chalky track. On foot or on their bikes our boys are always drawn to them, and almost every time the water breaches their wellies, leaving them with cold, sodden toes. Today, on the first day of February half-term, the puddles were semi-frozen, the ice making jigsaw patterns across the expanse of the water. As you can imagine this only made them more appealing to the boys.

It feels like it’s been a particularly windy winter with Storm Brian, Ophelia and Eleanor all hitting us quite hard. In the wind we tend to avoid our usual tree-lined tracks for fear of branches falling down on us and head out into the open. The Gibbet is the perfect spot to head to, with easy parking and easy access to the hill. The boys love feeling the full force of nature and seeing how well they can stand up to it!

On the day in 2017 when the whole country seemed to be under a blanket of snow, except for our village, we headed up the hill to see what we could find. We got out of the car and felt the biting winds on our cheeks, and snowflakes fluttering by. Not a heavy fall, but we had enough to create snowballs and to see the landscape changed.

We’ll keep returning to this site in every changing season and see how the landscape differs. There was a cold wind up there today, freezing my fingers as I took our photos. As its half-term I took the boys into our favourite local bakery, The Honesty Inkpen, for a warming toastie at the end of our walk.

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About the Author

Deborah Patterson

Deborah Patterson

About Me & Mine

I am a writer, editor, wife and mum to two very lively boys aged seven and five - and not forgetting Oakley, our bouncy black lab. Most days with my boys are an adventure of sorts, but at weekends we love to get out and about in our local countryside of the spectacular North Wessex Downs AONB either on wheels or on foot.

Favourite place in the world:

The mountains! I was lucky enough to have grandparents living in Salzburg, Austria when I grew up and have always had a love for the mountains. In summer I love the walks and the views, and in winter the smell of snow and skiing.

Favourite things to do outdoors:

There is a favourite spot in the next village along from us - some woods which are full of possibilities. There are streams to splash through, mud to get stuck in, 'dinosaur' ferns to hide amongst and fallen trees to bug-hunt in. Every time we go up there as a family we have a magical time. It helps that there's a cafe and pub where we park the car so we can finish the walk with a hot chocolate!

Comments (2)

  • Jay Greengrass

    Jay Greengrass

    22 February 2018 at 14:30 | #

    Hello Deborah!
    Your brilliant photo of the huge ice puddle makes me want to go stamping through it myself. The Gibbet looks so eerie even in daylight - I wonder what it looks like in the gloom of winter? Brrrrr! I'm looking forward to reading lots more of your posts.


    • Deborah Patterson

      Deborah Patterson

      27 February 2018 at 10:18 | #

      I'll have to get myself up there on a misty atmospheric morning to get a shot of the eerie Gibbet!


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