Burrough Hill is one of my favourite places. It lies about seven miles south of Melton Mowbray on the eastern side of the county of Leicestershire and is a country park owned by the Ernest Cook Trust.
Because of it’s high elevation (210 metres above sea level) and it’s unique location as a promontory it offers massive views over the county. It is a great place for short walks or for simply hanging around and enjoying the view.
The ancients knew how to make good use of the topography of our land, and situated neatly on top of the hill is an Iron Age hill fort – well to be more precise the earthen remains of the outer walls. Even so the earthen dykes are quite evocative, and it is easy to imagine the fort with its round houses in the middle full of people and animals. Some impressive rare bronze fittings from late BC have been unearthed from the site during a dig by Leicester University in the early twenty tens.
Making an early start
We have had some wonderful winter mornings recently, and despite my allergy to getting out of bed I decided it would be worth the effort of leaving those warm sheets to watch the sunrise from Burrough Hill. In fact to be honest it was not really that early, the beauty of the winter sunrise is that it happens at a reasonably decent hour, on our day it was 7.20am. I persuaded Lesley who works for e-outdoor and a friend Carl to come with me and by 6.30 we were in the car heading north to the hill still supping our cups of coffee.
As we drove through the early morning light there was a deep red/violet haze on the skyline and I was tempted to fear that we were going to miss the sun coming up, but with nerves of steel I stuck to my plan trusting that the sun would actually turn up on time and not ahead of schedule.
There is a small car park at the country park where we left our car and set off briskly toward the hill fort to climb on one of the banks to get as good an advantage point as possible. There was a sharp wind blowing across the hill bringing an edge to the morning. If we were not really awake before we arrived we certainly were now and definitely glad of our thermal jackets.
Sure enough bang on time the sun poked it’s golden head over the horizon cutting the land with it’s shafts of light. It always amazes me how quickly the sun initially makes its appearance into the day. It was not long before the suns golden rays were bathing the eastern side of the land, and throwing long dark shadows from everything that stood in its way.
I was so glad I had made the effort it is a glorious time of day, not only to see the sun but to feel, hear and see nature waking up. There is a stillness in the air which is almost sacred coloured only by solo bird song and the echoing croaking of crows. There was a slight frost on the ground and the crunching of grass under out feet added to the edge of a bright new day.
What I loved about being on the hill was the way the topography of the land played with the various hues of the sunlight. The suns rays cast varying shades of red and gold in contrast with the dark shadows from the banks and the trees, it was like walking through a living painting accompanied by a vibrant yet holy soundscape.
We walked down the hill to the flats below its slopes. Here the quiet was almost overwhelming except for the frequent punctuation of woodpeckers hammering away at wood, there seemed to an unusual amount of them banging away. Some echoed across the fields while others seemed almost right beside us, we only actually managed to see one though making it’s uneven flight between trees.
There were sheep in the fields who seemed even less inclined to acknowledge the day than us, begrudgingly getting up as we made our way across their field. What right had we to disturb their early morning lie-in.
Our path back up to the hill was through a woodland of various trees. Here we also found the sun playing, using the trees to create long thin shadows that striped our path as we walked through the last of the autumn leaves and muddy grass. The sky was a sharp crystal blue by now contrasting with the land which still languished in the shadows of the low winter sun.
As we made our way back to the car somehow we felt fresh and alive. Extraordinary since we had been up for about three hours and it still felt like the day had not yet really began, but it had been a wonderful way to start. Maybe I should do this more often – will see what my bed says tomorrow!