A small amount of sunlight filters through the branches overhead, leaving an ever moving dappled pattern on the rocky path underfoot. There's a gentle crunch with each step as my feet tread on the first of this years autumn leaves, their yellows and browns contrasting with the vibrant green of the gully walls. The gully narrows around me as I continue climbing. A beech tree clings to one bank, clutching onto the hillside with a tangled mess of roots as it tries to hold back the inevitable decline.
There's something otherworldly about a gully, the tall sides enclosing a narrow channel from the outside world. Sound doesn't permeate here. Time seems slower, unhurried, as it creates its own mini ecosystem. I'm relieved to have this path to myself, the magic unbroken by the intrusion of the outside world.
As I climb higher, above me fallen trees span the gully width, creating swathes of shadow and a semblance of a roof to this passageway. On these beams begins a new generation of growth; vines weave a thick tangle over the trunks and small seedlings take hold in the boughs. They casts the illusion of a tunnel ahead, and I am drawn to keep walking into its heart.
All too soon, I burst out into a clearing. To my right lies a patch of quarried gravel and to my left a stack of recently felled timber taller than my head. These serve as an abrupt reminder of the world beyond, and I withdraw into the gully's embrace for a few minutes longer.