Butser Hill run : the sunshine & sunset

With this weekend being the 7th anniversary of my blog I was determined to revisit a special place in my heart, Butser Hill, situated in the beautiful Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP) and bathed in early February sunshine, it didn’t let me down. You could almost say the timing was perfect.

During the Winter months, unless you pop out for a lunchtime walk you can spend the whole working week without natural light. As I jumped into the car I was excited to be chasing the day knowing that I was making the most of my time, after all, you can’t put a price on boosting your mood !!

Maximizing the remaining light meant beating the sinking sun as it inevitably drops down below the horizon. Elevation was the answer, the higher you go the more time you have to dodge the shadows from the sunset. My destination, Butser Hill, is the highest point on the South Downs.

The location and weather would provide great photographic opportunities but far outweighing this was the inspiring and emotionally motivating experience of the scenery, fresh air, views and nature (even if it was cold) ha ha.

The base of the hill fills you with anticipation as it slowly ramps up with the well trodden path heading towards a gate which isn’t even half way up. The lower slopes were already covered in shade so I knew I needed to press on. Heading towards the gate is the steepest section, to the point that, you can’t see the gate or the rest of the hill, as the photo above shows.

Looking back towards QECP the light seemed to be getting brighter or clearer, it’s hard to explain, perhaps it was the isolated location, less light pollution as it were or maybe my senses were just that much more focused as I knew the clock was ticking towards sundown.

We often hear of Vitamin D and serotonin as being the sunshine vitamins and even though there certainly wasn’t any warmth in the sun you could feel an inner glow of warmth. This might not be the Alps but you can see Portsmouth in the distance and the Isle of Wight further beyond.

I was in my element breathing in the fresh air on my run/jog/walk and with it being 4.30pm or so I had the whole experience virtually to myself. The phrase “if you could bottle this and keep it for ever” came to mind. I carried on with a measured jog due to Butser being about a 500 feet climb and even though the path is straight, various sections of sheep poo added to a zig zag running pattern but this probably helped with the steep hill !!

I didn’t meet any sheep until further up the hill and when I did they had a certain look in their eyes, especially the fourth one back who appeared to be tapping his foot as if to say “move on there’s nothing to see here, only us sheep”. Being higher up every colour seemed to be more vibrant, the blue sky had started to tinge pink and that was offset against the green grass.

The summit of Butser flattens out and gives you a few hundred meters of grassland before reaching the all important trig point. Once at the highest point my hard work had paid off because I’d literally kept the shadows at bay by climbing the hill. The hight of the hill lends itself to the satellite communications tower which even thought not that pleasing on the eye is probably one of the reasons my smartphone got its signal.

Considering that I’d only left work a matter of hours ago the natural light, even though it was fading, is a stark contrast to the office florescent lighting, computer and phone screens that we are used to using. I thought the satellite tower almost looked like an Apollo space craft and the setting sun could have been the rocket engines firing it up towards the moon (or is that just me ?)

Leaving the trig point I ran down to the gate and back up twice which bagged me just over 1,100 feet of elevation in total. By now the temperature seemed to have dropped while the wind had picked up, however, in many ways this just makes you feel more alive !!

I think it’s important to take something away from an experiences that you have thoroughly enjoyed, to notice that all of your senses have been heightened, to appreciate how lucky you are to live in such a beautiful part of the world but also to use it as a point of reference for the future.

In many ways nothing has changed on this hill in the last twenty five years that I’ve been visiting it but at the same time the world has moved on. Taking moments to fully absorb the surroundings that you choose to visit can have a powerful effect on you. I’ve had a few niggling injuries recently but as I descended towards the car park and the new café (which was unfortunately shut as I’d been having too much fun) I resolved to keep channeling this feeling into not only my running but day to day life.

As I watched the procession of car lights on the A3 with darkness falling I realised my time was almost up. Spring isn’t too far away which means we’ll have the opportunity to delight in so many more daylight hours, make the most of it, embrace it and enjoy sharing it with others.

Before I started writing this I jotted down as many “light” analogies / sayings as I could think of and the one thing I noticed was that they were all positive. So, brighten up your day and watch your face light up when you get outdoors in the natural daylight.

Getting outdoors really does have so many benefits. Thanks for reading.