The news bulletin pierces the silence of sleep. The clock face glows 05:00. I hit snooze and, groggily, debate my choice: stay or go?
I haul myself out of bed. Destination: Dartmoor.
A coal-black blanket lies over the land. My car headlights beam into the darkness, roads deathly quiet. Who’s usually up this early on a Sunday by choice?
Well-lit urban highways give way to a pastoral landscape edged with stone walls, hedge banks and gnarly naked oaks.
I round a corner and Dartmoor unfurls before me. I see silhouettes of ponies and sheep. Foxes make jaywalking the rule of the road.
I drive up, up, up, eventually crunching onto hard stand of a car park. Street lights glint in the far distance. Devon dozes as the River Teign slides silently towards the sea where a bank of charcoal clouds ride along the horizon.
Stepping out the car, a bitingly cold westerly wind – remnants of Storm Jorge – wails a welcome and stings my face.
Slinging my camera pack over my shoulder, I pull my hat down tightly over my ears and trudge up moorland slopes. Feet crunch softly in the icing sugar-like dusting of snow on the ground.
Pausing, I look around. The imposing hulks of Haytor, Old Man, Saddle Tor and Rippon Tor lie on all sides. I walk among these peacefully slumbering giants. My watch blinks 06:30 Sunday March 1 but up here, it’s timeless.
Somewhere, an owl hoots. Shards of ice glint in moonlit pools of water. I wander among rocks, taking photos in the rosy morning light. Every so often the wind whips around the granite, yelling a reminder of its presence.
Hunkering down, I clutch a warm flask of steaming coffee. The land changes to violet to indigo to blue and the amber sun slowly peeks from behind shale-coloured clouds.
A sharp gust of wet air slaps the back of my neck, indicating a new arrival. I glance to my right and up: a maelstrom of cloud splits apart, forcefully unleashing squally sleet. Snowflakes dart and dance, flitter and flutter. The sky above is bled of the rainbow colours from a moment ago. The daffodil yellow sun darkens and strains to be seen as the world transforms into hues of black, white and ochre.
And then…. peace. The storm struts off leaving her celestial nemesis to burn brightly; rays reaching out for a warm embrace. She casts a golden glow and the ground responds, glittering like its studded in a million diamonds.
I can’t take photos quick enough.
I want this moment to last forever.
I’m bloody freezing.
I am really glad I got out of bed for this.